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  • Best-practices for conduct of clinical trial for animal patients

    Ann Milligan


    View IPFD Board member (emeritus) Patricia Olson's presentation at The Role of Clinical Studies for Pets with Naturally Occurring Tumors in Translational Cancer Research: A Workshop (June, 2015)

    Summaries from the workshop are available.

    Best-practices for conduct of clinical trial for animal patients

    "Patricia Olson, an independent consultant and former president and chief executive officer of the Morris Animal Foundation and advisor to the American Humane Association, discussed the importance of strategic, collaborative, and humane research that considers the needs of pet patients and owners. Increasingly, she said, pets are viewed as family members. A 2011 poll by Harris Research found that 69 percent of survey respondents had a dog, and 92 percent of those respondents considered the pet to be a family member. A majority of respondents allowed their pets to sleep in their beds, and some frequently purchased holiday present for their pets. A recent issue of the journal Science described some of the deep connections between canines and humans, Olson said. Canines were the first domesticated animals, for example, and humans and dogs have evolved shared hormone signaling and brain networks that encourage their interaction. The hormone oxytocin facilitates social connections between humans and dogs, and when humans view their dogs, the same common brain network for emotion is activated when mothers view images of their children (Grimm, 2015).
    Olson next discussed attitudes toward the role of pet patients in research. In general, she said, women are less inclined to be in favor of animal research, and they outnumber men in animal protection movements. Positive attitudes toward research are dependent on the type of research, she added. For example, research studies that might help the pet patient are looked on more favorably than those that will not.
    Olson said that trials for pet patients should be designed to advance disease prevention as well as to develop new therapies. She also mentioned several ethical considerations that should be discussed before launching a trial, including the appropriateness of delayed conventional therapies, limits on tissue and blood collection, and whether pet patients are likely to benefit from clinical trial research.
    Olson suggested that pet patients should be considered similar to pediatric patients, noting that both need independent advocates to provide informed consent. She added that pet owners are a vulnerable population; a distressed and worried owner may not be the best independent advocate for the pet patient. Means should be found to communicate with diverse populations, she said, and she noted that stores selling pet products have large databases of information on pets and pet owners. These databases might be useful for finding improved methods of communication with the owner community, she said. She concluded by saying that pet owners can become partners in the research enterprise through careful consideration of their needs and expectations for their pets.

    Also see: Dr. Mathew Breen's presentation at which elaborates on the powerful opportunity possible with identification of genetic factors in the dog  contributing to advancing cancer research in humans and  Dr. Heidi Parker's - Canine Cancer Genomics at





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