Clinical Trial for Feline Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

May 8, 2017 / Practitioner Updates

Dr. Alycen Lundberg

Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common oral tumor seen in cats. Despite the advances in veterinary oncologic treatments over the last decade, this tumor type remains challenging to treat. Patients typically succumb to their disease within months, even with multi-modal therapy.

Oftentimes surgery is not a good option for these patients, and we therefore use radiation therapy and chemotherapy to try and slow the growth of the tumor. Unfortunately, this approach is not curative. New and better treatments are needed for pets that suffer from squamous cell carcinoma.

Traditional chemotherapies target all rapidly dividing cells in the body, not just cancer cells. A newer approach to chemotherapy focuses on identifying specific characteristics of tumor types and developing drugs that target those characteristics while sparing other tissues in the body.

Doctors at the University of Illinois Cancer Care Clinic and Comparative Oncology Laboratory have worked closely with Professor Paul Hergenrother’s group in the Department of Chemistry to develop new anti-cancer agents for pets and for people. These researchers have developed a compound called isobutyl-deoxynyboquinone (IB-DNQ), which targets a specific enzyme, NQO1, found across many tumor types. By screening many different veterinary tumors, we have found that feline oral squamous cell carcinomas in particular have very high levels of this enzyme, making this tumor a good potential target for IB-DNQ.

The Cancer Care Clinic is offering a fully funded clinical trial for pet cats with oral squamous cell carcinoma that meet eligibility requirements. The trial is for combination therapy where the cats are treated with radiation therapy and IB-DNQ administered intravenously for four weekly treatments. Small pilot studies in cats have shown this compound to be well tolerated and have shown promising results.

We are now enrolling cats with this tumor type to better characterize the ability of IB-DNQ to treat oral squamous cell carcinoma and provide pet cats with a longer and better quality of life. We will also be exploring other types of veterinary cancers that may be a good target for this drug.

—Dr. Alycen Lundberg

Photo: Dr. Lundberg holds Smokey Threlkeld, who came all the way from Bozeman, Mont., to be a part of the clinical trial.