Thanks to the incredible fundraising efforts by our supporters, the IMHA Clinical Research Team have been able to continue their work into Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia.
Please find below a summary of the work being undertaken by the team. The past year was clearly a very difficult year on many levels, but progress has been made in spite of those challenges, and your support has been crucial to the continuation of this work:
Study of biomarkers
The Team’s main focus at the moment is trying to identify new markers that can be used to guide and inform the treatment of dogs with IMHA. The main aim is to try to individualise medications so that each dog is given enough medication to manage their IMHA without causing side effects.
In the past, dogs have been treated according to fixed schedules of treatment printed in textbooks, but we know that, for some dogs, this isn't sufficient to control the disease or alternatively may cause excessive side effects. With new markers, the correct doses could be chosen for each individual dog, avoiding these problems.
Due to COVID-19, the Team had to stop recruitment for approximately six months, but they are now actively recruiting dogs with IMHA who have been referred to the RVC for treatment. This project is also being funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.
Expected outcomes: Evaluation of novel biomarkers for response to treatment and likelihood of developing adverse effects in dogs treated for IMHA. This project is ongoing, despite COVID-19 and the Team hopes to complete it in the summer of 2021.
In a pioneering new initiative, the RVC is collecting left-over blood, urine and stool samples from dogs with autoimmune diseases like IMHA into a Biobank for use in future research studies. When pets have a blood test, some of the sample is often left over and would normally be thrown away. Instead, with the consent of the owner, we will save the sample and make it available for researchers doing projects intended to improve the diagnosis and treatment of dogs with the same disease. Collecting more samples will enable the RVC and its collaborating partners to do more ambitious research in future.
Expected outcomes: A repository of samples will be sourced and stored and then developed into a Biobank which will be of suitable size to support new research studies by 2024. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 this project had to be paused and we are keenly waiting to re-start it soon in 2021.
Fund for innovative research in the treatment of dogs with IMHA
New ideas and questions constantly arise in the treatment of dogs with IMHA, and we have been able to address some of these through the funds so kindly donated via the RVC Animal Care Trust which support these initial small research projects and new approaches to clinical research. This gives us the opportunity to develop novel project ideas in our research group, which can then be expanded to larger studies if they appear to be promising.
For example, a pilot study on assessing the glucocorticoid receptor in dogs with immune-mediated diseases to predict outcome as well as adverse effects of treatment. In this case the data has been collected and analysed and the final manuscript is under preparation and will be hopefully submitted in spring 2021.
We are currently in the process of establishing an Immunoregistry the purpose of which is to gather a mass of data about patients with immune-mediated (IM diseases). Data will be gathered from general veterinary practices, referral centres, and also owners of registered patients. Our aim will be to examine the data to determine the answers to questions like:
- Is referral led by client demand or veterinary advice?
- Are the majority of dogs with severe IM disease referred to a referral hospital? Is there evidence of treatment of severe disease at first opinion practices?
- Would it be appropriate to share treatment protocols developed at referral hospitals with first opinion vets?
- Do first opinion practices generally consider IMHA to be a disease associated with high mortality in dogs?
- What evidence is there of the effect of differing amounts of glucocorticoids on patients of different, sizes, breeds and ages?