Dr Chris Weir - Kolling Institute

Dr Christopher Weir from the Kolling Institute was awarded funding from the CRF in 2017 for this research on:
A safety trial of next generation cancer vaccines and targeted IL-15 plasmid therapy

Approximately 1 in 3 pet dogs will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. While some canine cancers can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, expense and availability may prevent many dogs receiving treatment. Novel immune based therapies provide another potential weapon to fight canine cancer. We have developed a next generation cancer vaccine (NGV). The vaccine presents a patient's own tumour proteins back to the immune system together with a unique stimulant (RZ-1) and an adjuvant (Advax). Pre clinically we have shown this new vaccine approach is superior in efficacy to the currently marketed canine cancer vaccine. We have also developed targeted plasmid IL-15 therapy which is delivered directly into the tumour to stimulate immune cells inside. The next step is to show safety of the NGV with or without IL-15 therapy in canine cancer patients.
Canine patients with externally accessible tumours who have failed or have no option of standard of care therapy will be offered a place in the trial. Dogs will be placed into groups 1) Vaccine only 2) Combined Vaccine and Inter tumoural vaccine 3) IL-15 therapy 4) IL-15 + Vaccine.
The dogs will be assessed for adverse reactions to the vaccine/IL 15 therapy during and after the treatment period and monitored for tumour progression or regression. Blood samples will be collected to assess immune cell levels and for cytokine analysis. Dogs showing no adverse reactions to the therapies and perceived benefit will be offered further treatments after a period of 3 to 6 months.
3 mins with Dr Chris Weir                  
Question: Cancer is a major health issue in dogs so how did you come to work in the area of canine health?
Chris Weir: After completing my Science degree, I worked for a few years in industry, before I got a job as a research assistant at Macquarie University. This led to me doing a PhD developing antibodies and detection methods for water parasites. I did my first post doc on Cyclospora before changing to stem cell research and then cancer research. After coming up with the concept of cancer vaccines and doing some promising preclinical work the opportunity to treat dogs with cancer arose. I was a member on an ethics committee and one of the Vets on the committee found out about my research and asked to have some of his clients with cancer treated. I jumped at the opportunity as dogs have similar cancer rates to humans and provide a clinical relevant presentation with cancer. Dogs have limited options to treat their cancer so it is rewarding to give an option to owners and their dogs.
Question: Why do you think research into the various aspects of canine health is important?
Chris Weir: It’s important for owners to have the best treatments for their dog’s health conditions. By trying new treatments on canine patients, it also provides possible translation of the therapy to treat humans. Dogs present with disease just like a human would so provide an ideal scenario for testing the safety and efficacy of new treatments for all kinds of diseases of benefit to both canines and humans.
Question: How important was the funding provided by the Canine Research Foundation and how did this assist in the completion/development of your research?
Chris Weir: The CRF are one of the few organisations that provide funding specifically for research on health related issues in dogs. Without the funding, our 2 trials looking at cancer vaccines and other immune therapies to treat dogs with cancer would not have happened.
These trials are currently ongoing but we have established our next generation cancer vaccines are safe and have promising signs of efficacy enough that a safety trial in human cancer patients maybe started in the next 6 months.
Interview conducted by Mr Tristan Fernandez, Deakin University
The CRF wishes Chris and his team all the best with their research and we look forward to hearing more good outcomes.

Contact Details

Secretary: L Brodie Liaison Officer: J West
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Email : [email protected] or [email protected]