VACCS: Vaccination Against Canine Cancer Study

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Please answer a few questions to see if you may qualify.
Have questions? Please contact the study coordinator Dr. Jennifer Willcox at or call (530) 771-6166
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  1. *1. Is your dog between the ages of 5.5 and 11.5 years old?
  2. *2. Is your dog over 11 pounds (5 kg)?
  3. *3. Is your dog a mixed breed or pure bred?
    Only certain pure breeds are eligible for the study.
  4. *4. What breed is your dog?
    If your dog is a mixed breed or a combination of breeds (i.e., Goldendoodle), please select "Mixed Breed".
  5. *5. Do you live within 150 miles of UC Davis?
  6. *6. How did you find out about the study?
  7. 7. What is your preferred method of contact?
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"Help us prevent cancer in dogs with a new vaccine!"
Animal: Dogs
Age: 5.5-11.5 years
Healthy Pets: Yes
Keywords: cancer, vaccine, healthy, dog, canine
Type: Preventative vaccine study
275 Participants
Background and purpose
Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs, accounting for approximately 30% of all deaths. Certain breeds have much higher likelihoods of cancer than others. “Tumor antigens” are proteins that can be recognized by the immune system as foreign and result in the attack of tumors by the immune system. Researchers have identified a series of new tumor antigens that appear to be produced in multiple types of cancer very early in tumor development and are produced in cancers from many species (humans, dogs and mice). Vaccination of mice with these antigens can delay or prevent multiple types of cancer without side effects. The purpose of this study is to determine whether vaccination with these novel tumor antigens is capable of reducing the likelihood of cancer in dogs.
What happens in this study

If the exams, tests, and procedures show that your pet can take part in the study, then the following will happen as part of the study:

  • Screening visit (Day -28 to 0): Do a physical examination, collect and analyze a blood and urine sample, and perform chest x-rays and an abdominal ultrasound under light sedation.
  • Week 0: Do a physical examination, collect a blood sample and give the first DNA vaccine.
  • Week 2: Do a physical examination and give the second DNA vaccine.
  • Week 4: Do a physical examination and give the first peptide vaccine.
  • Week 6: Do a physical examination, collect a blood sample, and give the second peptide vaccine.
  • Month 6: A physical examination and collect a blood sample.
  • Months 12, 24, 36, 48, and 60: Do a physical examination, collect and analyze a blood and urine sample, and receive a booster vaccine.
  • Months 18, 30, 42, and 54: Do a physical examination and collect a blood sample.
Pet owner responsibilities
  • Keep all appointments.
  • Enter data on the internet using a unique log-in identification and password provided to you.
  • Have an established and on-going relationship with a family veterinarian (this veterinarian will be contacted during the study to provide information).
  • Cover the cost of the initial screening examination and any additional diagnostics that are suggested by the study veterinarian to explain any abnormalities found during screening.
  • Cover costs associated with routine preventative care and the diagnosis and treatment of any medical, surgical or traumatic conditions that arise during the 5-year study period that are not related to cancer.

You may be contacted after your dog has finished this clinical study to collect follow-up treatment and outcome information; this may occur several months to years following completion of the study.

Participation requirements

We are looking for healthy dogs that are between the ages of 5.5 and 11.5 years and at least 11 pounds (5kg). Dogs must:

  • Be mixed breeds or certain pure breeds only (see complete list at
  • Live within 150 miles of UC Davis.
  • Have visited a veterinarian within 12 months of study entry and have 3 years of previous medical history available for review.

There is no limit to the amount of eligible dogs per household that can participate in this trial. The family veterinarian must agree to provide medical records of previous visits and any visits that take place during the period of enrollment.


We cannot accept dogs that have previously been diagnosed with cancer, have been diagnosed with hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), are receiving immunosuppressive therapies, or have any other serious health condition.


Before your dog begins the study, your dog will need to have the following performed to find out if they can take part in the study:

  • Review of past medical records from your primary care veterinarian
  • Physical examination by the study veterinarian
  • Blood work (CBC, chemistry panel, coagulation panel), urinalysis, chest x-rays, and abdominal ultrasound.
Benefits and risks of participating
Taking part in this study may delay or prevent cancer development. The information gained from this study will be used to find out if this is a valid strategy to prevent people from developing cancer in the future.

Your pet may experience side effects. Side effects could be mild or serious, including the risk of death. Possible side effects of vaccination may include injection site irritation, pain or muscle soreness, vomiting,
loss of appetite, decreased energy levels, low grade fever, allergic reactions or, less likely, the development of anaphylaxis or autoimmune disease. Risks of blood draws, sedation, and urine collection in this study are not different than with any other procedure. Risks of blood draw include bruising or a hematoma at the collection site. Risks of sedation for the imaging (chest x-ray and abdominal ultrasound) include low heart rate, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, prolonged sleepiness, and, rarely, sudden death. Risk of urine collection if cystocentesis is needed (drawing the urine directly from the bladder) include bruising at the collection site or, less likely, laceration of the bladder. Another possible risk is that the blood work, chest x-rays and/or abdominal ultrasound being performed for screening purposed may identify potential underlying health issues for which your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic testing and/or treatment.
To find out if your dog can take part, the study will cover the costs of the screening blood work, urinalysis, chest x-rays, and abdominal ultrasound.

If your dog is diagnosed with cancer during the 5-year study period, the study will provide a $2,000 financial incentive, in the form of a Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital credit to your dog’s account, to help with treatment costs.

The study sponsors will cover up to $500 towards medical treatment for side effects likely related to the vaccine. Treatment of side effects must occur at UC Davis VMTH for costs to be covered; costs for treatment provided elsewhere cannot be reimbursed.
Study duration and period
As long as your pet remains healthy, your pet may be enrolled into the study for up to 5 years, with visits every-other-week visits for vaccination for the first 6 weeks, followed by every-6-month visits for the next 5 years. Your dog may be removed from the study if they develop a tumor prior to the end of the study.
Recruitment period
From April 30, 2019
UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
1 Garrod Drive
Small Animal Clinic - Oncology
Davis, CA 95616
Colorado State University
300 West Drake Road
Flint Animal Cancer Center
Fort Collins, CO 80525
University of Wisconsin - Madison Veterinary Care
2015 Linden Drive
Small Animal Clinic
Madison, WI 53706
Dr. Jennifer Willcox

Have any questions or want to learn more? Leave your contact details below and the research team will reach out to you.


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