Seeking ways to treat cancer and to improve wound healing

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A main focus of Dr. Gerlinde Van de Walle’s research is exploring novel treatments for animal diseases. Currently, her lab is focused on finding drugs suitable for eliminating canine mammary cancer and evaluating the effectiveness of stem cell and related therapies for treating skin wounds in horses – which may be used in humans and other animals.

  • Identifying new treatments for canine cancer. In an attempt to identify new drugs to treat mammary cancer in dogs, Van de Walle and her colleagues studied the effects of a human cancer drug called 5-Azacytidine on dog tumors. The drug reduced the ability of dog mammary cancer cells grown in the lab to form tumors, a very promising early result that could push this drug along to eventual use in treating canine cancer.
  • Stem cells to help horse wound healing. Horses are prone to lacerations on their lower legs. These wounds heal slowly, and may lead to “proud flesh”, lumpy overgrowths of tissue that are susceptible to uncontrolled bleeding and bacterial infection. These wounds appear to be similar to the prominent scarring that can occur in humans after surgery. Van de Walle’s group tested stem cells to determine whether those could aid the wound healing process in tissue samples. Their results show that the substances secreted by stem cells can prevent the scarring (proud flesh) from forming and also reduce the severity of existing scars. Van de Walle plans to carry the work forward to testing in horses, and to examine how those treatments may be used in other animals, including humans.