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Oklahoma State University

OSU Veterinary College and Einstein College of Medicine partner to advance human and animal cancer research

Monday, October 12, 2020

Chandan Guha, M.B.B.S., Ph.D. and Ashish Ranjan, BVSc, Ph.D.

A new partnership between Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Albert Einstein College of Medicine may herald new treatments for cancer patients, both humans and animals.

At the core of the one-health research partnership between Einstein and the CVM are Ashish Ranjan, BVSc, Ph.D., and Chandan Guha, M.B.B.S., Ph.D.

Ranjan, a professor and Kerr Foundation Endowed Chair in the Department of Physiological Sciences, leads the Nanomedicine and Targeted Therapy Laboratory at the CVM. His lab conducts cancer-related research, and he treats dogs and cats who have cancer.

Located in the Bronx, New York, Albert Einstein College of Medicine is a research-intensive medical school where Guha is vice chair of radiation oncology and a professor of radiation oncology, pathology and urology. He has been doing cancer biology research for 25 years at Einstein and treats cancer patients with a variety of radiotherapy approaches.

Ranjan and Guha spearheaded the agreement, said Dr. Carlos Risco, OSU CVM dean.

“They were familiar with each other’s work and as researchers often do, they communicated and started asking how can we share faculty expertise, institutional resources and what would the funding trends look like?” Risco said. “About a year ago, Drs. Ranjan and Jerry Malayer, our associate dean of research, and I met with Dr. Guha in New York City. We talked about partnering and sharing experiences and what this would look like. I envisioned this partnership to develop new therapeutic approaches, drugs and devices for oncology. And also exciting about this partnership was that we had an opportunity to look into other areas — infectious, emerging and zoonotic diseases.

“This is the quintessential team science approach to advance research. This cross disciplinary science approach combines team members’ strengths, experience and institutional resources for a common research endeavor. This method will accelerate scientific innovation and help translate research findings into therapeutic approaches that will ultimately help both animal and human patients.”

“This collaboration with Einstein depicts the One Health initiative, which focuses on the fact that animal, human and environmental health are intricately connected,” said Jerry Malayer, Ph.D., associate dean of research and graduate education at the veterinary college. “There are programs at Einstein and programs at the CVM that overlap in some key ways. For example, the mechanisms of disease processes may be similar in a dog as in a person. We might find something that benefits both and thereby advance public health. The opportunity to talk and network to identify these opportunities is important to both institutions. Things that benefit the human population can also affect the animal population in a positive way and vice versa.

“Both Ranjan and Guha are funded in part by the National Institutes of Health. They met through their connections at NIH and with other folks in the field. Over the past year, they talked about potential collaboration, visited each other’s facilities and before you know it, we’re talking about institutional partnerships. Agreements like this help lower the barriers for people to do quality work.”

Ranjan said his lab and Guha work in similar areas.

“Thus, we discussed ways to collaborate such that we investigate them first in the veterinary patient and then eventually take those to the human setting at their institution,” Ranjan said.

“The only way we can solve complex disease problems is to learn from nature,” Guha said. “Using a mouse model is not real life; there are no risk factors involved. In real life, we have a competition between our defense mechanisms, which prevents the mutated cell or cancer cell to express itself, versus the cancer cell trying to overcome the defense mechanisms of the body and grow.”

Dr. Edward Burns, executive dean and professor of pathology and medicine at Einstein, said, “We’ve cured every cancer in mice. Mice need not fear cancer. What this new partnership will do is investigate cure rates in veterinary patients that develop cancers spontaneously. Such patients are closer to humans and thus, are translationally relevant. That’s where the potential payoff could be in the long run and makes this collaboration exciting.”

“I was looking to connect cancer centers with comparative oncology capability,” Guha said. “OSU is currently doing outstanding work for that. I was very fortunate to meet Dr. Ashish Ranjan in one of the ultrasound meetings. We became mutual admirers. …  Dr. Ranjan has single-handedly given ultrasound a special meaning in veterinary medicine. He has been doing pioneering work using ultrasound to treat tumors non-invasively and without resection.

“The collaboration between our college, which is an NIH-designated cancer center in humans, and the OSU veterinary college that is treating cancers in companion pets is a natural partnership. For medical schools like Einstein, which are doing cutting-edge research, this brings a great opportunity to study the natural causes of cancer and how to treat them as well as look at other areas (such as) the degenerative conditions of the bones and joints or neurodegenerative conditions. These opportunities will open up as we move forward, which will benefit society. It’s a win-win for all sides.”

“Current projects in my lab are mainly centered on optimizing focused ultrasound treatment parameters and how they can be combined with nanoparticle immune adjuvants to improve outcomes in pre-clinical and clinical cancer settings,” Ranjan said. “… Our partnership with Einstein will enhance our research experiences and help develop therapeutic protocols that will benefit the veterinary and human patient populations.”

“Ultrasound is a very interesting energy,” Guha said. “You have very low energy ultrasound, which you use for getting the baby pictures or diagnostic ultrasound. Then you have very high energy ultrasound, which causes almost charring; it’s instantaneous, and within five seconds the tumor is dead. Our group has been working on a spectrum in the middle. Our research has shown that we can create an in situ vaccine by using ultrasound. In other words, we can turn on mechanisms within the tumor which will essentially help the tumor to be cleared using the body’s own defense system of the immune system.”

Ranjan’s lab is at the forefront of focused ultrasound and nanomedicine-based immunotherapy research.

“We have made significant inroads and findings that are aiding researchers in this field of research to understand how device-directed medicines influence a patient’s ability to cure tumors,” he said. “Einstein has top-notch investigators in cancer immunotherapy. We are of interest to Einstein’s ongoing effort because partnering with us allows them to quickly translate their bench to bedside research into actual practice. We are also unique in our ability to make clinically relevant nanoparticles and can act as a direct source of those to Einstein.”

“It’s not just what Ashish and I do, but it opens the opportunity to many,” said Guha. “Einstein has very established investigators, who are doing fundamental immunology research and would be very happy to collaborate. I’m really grateful for both Dean Gordon Tomaselli and Executive Dean Edward Burns at Einstein and Dean Carlos Risco at OSU CVM for giving us the opportunity to arrange this memorandum of agreement. Whether it’s neuroscience, orthopedic surgery or oncology, our institutions will always have an opportunity to work together for the benefit of our patients — patients in the cancer center at Einstein and patients in OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital.”

“We appreciate the canine owners’ motivation and support in letting their pets be enrolled in our clinical trials. This is helping us understand the feasibility of our technologies in actual clinical case scenarios,” Ranjan said. “The findings will assist the medical institutions across the country to translate those for their own research and Einstein is a great example in that regard. I think this partnership is a great beginning. OSU is perfectly positioned to help medical institutions to improve the way we treat cancers, and we invite them to partner with us. Our past efforts and extramural funding including those from Petco, Focused Ultrasound Foundation and the National Institutes of Health have helped expand the one-health mission, which recognizes the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment, and we hope this initiative will strengthen it further.”

“This partnership is a unique opportunity for the participating institutions to improve animal and human health through the development of therapeutic approaches, drugs and devices,” Risco said. “This agreement between the respective colleges will advance research activities and productivities by faculty collaborating like Drs. Ranjan and Guha have done. Ultimately, I see not only our faculty but the citizens of Oklahoma, this nation and the world benefitting through this initiative. We have a wonderful record of solving evolving societal issues and in this case of advancing the knowledge in therapy, diagnosis and research of oncology.

"With this partnership, we have the opportunity to expand it further in the areas of infectious, emerging, and zoonotic diseases and maybe in other areas as well going forward. It is very gratifying for Oklahoma State University, in particular the College of Veterinary Medicine, that a world-renowned research institution like Albert Einstein College of Medicine recognizes the impactful research that our college does and then to say, ‘we want to partner with them. We want to join forces with them so that we can advance our own discovery and research.’ I applaud all faculty in our college for their dedication to advance research, teaching and service and I’m grateful to Einstein for providing us the opportunity to partner.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Derinda Blakeney, APR | OSU College of Veterinary Medicine | 405-744-6740 | derinda@okstate.edu

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