Archive for the ‘Cancer Research’ Category

National Canine Cancer Foundation to fund a new innovative Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) Research Project

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

I have some new exciting news. As you all know we are always trying to find an new edge in the battle against canine cancer. And Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is one of those cancers we would like to get a better handle on since it seems to end up being diagnosed too late to save the dog. In fact, we are so keen on finding out how to deal with HSA that we have actually initiated our own research project on HSA with G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. This is very exciting for the NCCF because this type of research on HSA has never been tried. Let me tell you how it all came about by first talking about a dog name Batman.

Batman was the first dog to undergo a breakthrough experimental treatment for brain cancer, led by doctors, G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. They developed a combination treatment plan for dogs with glioma, a very aggressive and relatively common form of brain cancer. First they removed the tumor surgically. Then, in some cases, they use local gene therapy to attract immune cells to destroy remaining tumor cells, and finally they created a personalized anti-cancer vaccine made from the dog’s own cancer cells to prevent tumor recurrence.

I personally love the thought of taking a cancer that was killing a dog and turning it into a personalized vaccine to kill the cancer!

Dr. Pluhar, a surgeon at the Veterinary Medical Center, and Dr. Ohlfest, head of the neurosurgery gene therapy program at the Masonic Cancer Center, gave Batman his initial treatment in August 2008. Batman led a normal life unaffected by his tumor until his death from cardiac failure in February 2010, there was no tumor recurrence. According to the Dean of the College, Trevor Ames, DVM, MS, “the far-reaching implications of this promising new treatment are almost difficult to fathom; not only could these treatments lead to a cure for brain and other systemic cancers in dogs, but because dogs and humans share many physiological traits, dogs could also be the missing link in the cure for brain cancer in humans.”

Then something interesting happened. Almost one year ago, Davis Hawn’s then 8-year-old yellow lab, Booster, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his nasal sinus. Booster was given three weeks to live. Hawn did not want to accept the death sentence and began searching the country for a cure. His search led him to doctors in Florida who removed Booster’s tumor and gave him chemo. An online search then led him to Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar from the University of Minnesota’s canine brain tumor clinical program. Davis asked her to help his dog, but Dr. Pluhar had never made a vaccine for this type of cancer before. But Davis was not going to take no for an answer so she did agree to try. She shipped the vaccine off and ten months later Booster is cancer free.

Then after Davis contacted the NCCF to tell us about how well the vaccine works, we contacted Dr. Pluhar to ask if she would be willing to try the same research that was successful with brain cancer and skin cancer, and use the same protocol to try dealing with splenic HSA. The NCCF’s thinking is that with all these other cancers, the similarities were that the cancer had to be removed and a vaccine needed to be created from the cancer cells. With splenic HSA, one of the more common forms of HSA, the spleen is typically removed so we felt that Dr. Pluhar’s research could possibly work. With that in mind, we asked her if she could try and apply her protocol on splenic HSA. After doing some initial research she agreed to do the study based on reaching certain goals before going on to the next level.

First, she needs to insure that we can culture the cancer cells in the lab,

Second, she needs to insure that the tumor vaccines stimulate immune cells to attack tumor cells. If she can achieve these two steps she can go on to treat the HSA cancer. We could not be happier and are guardedly optimistic over this research project.

The cost for this project will be $55,500. I hope you are all as excited as we are about this research and will help fund the project. If you want to help with funding this new innovative NCCF’s initiated project please CLICK HERE or got to this link

Thank you

Gary D. Nice
President and Founder
National Canine Cancer Foundation

Scientists discover cancer fighting berry

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Scientists have been surprised by the rapid cancer fighting properties of a berry found only in Far North Queensland.

An eight-year study led by Dr Glen Boyle, from the QIMR Berghofer medical research institute in Brisbane, found a compound in the berry could kill head and neck tumors as well as melanomas.

An experimental drug derived from the berry, EBC-46, has so far been used on 300 animals, including cats, dogs and horses.

(A dog called Oscar pre-treatment with the berry compound (L) and 15 days after treatment (R). Supplied: QIMR Berghofer Medical Institute)

Dr Boyle said in 75 per cent of cases, the tumor disappeared and had not come back.

“There’s a compound in the seed – it’s a very, very complicated process to purify this compound and why it’s there in the first place, we don’t know,” he said.

“The compound works by three ways essentially: it kills the tumor cells directly, it cuts off the blood supply and it also activates the body’s own immune system to clean up the mess that’s left behind.”

There were no side effects, but what amazed scientists most was how fast it worked: the drug took effect within five minutes and tumors disappeared within days.

“The surprising thing for us and the thing that we don’t see very often is the speed with which this occurs,” Dr Boyle said.

“Usually when you treat a tumor it takes several weeks for it to resolve, but this is very, very rapid.

“There’s a purpling of the area, of the tumor itself, and you see that within five minutes and you come back the next day and the tumor’s black and you come back a few days later and the tumor’s fallen off.”

(The EBC-46 drug was derived from a berry that grows on the blushwood tree.)

The berry grows on the blushwood tree, which only grows in pockets of Far North Queensland.

“The tree is very, very picky on where it will grow,” Dr Boyle said.

“It’s only on the Atherton Tablelands at the moment and they’re trying to expand that to different places of course because it’d be nice to be able to grow it on a farm somewhere.

Dr Boyle said the findings of the pre-clinical trials suggested the drug could be effective in human patients.

But Dr Boyle warned the drug could only be used for tumors that can be accessed by direct injection and was not effective against metastatic cancers.

He said it would be an additional treatment option, rather than a replacement for chemotherapy or surgery.

“Elderly patients for example who just can’t go through another round of chemo or can’t go through another general anaesthetic for example, this could be used to treat those sorts of tumors and hopefully improve quality of life for people,” he said.

Biotechnology company QBiotics has obtained ethical approval to begin human trials.

News reposted from:

Written by: Jessica van Vonderen

Hemangiosarcoma is more common in dogs than in other species

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

Some people fear heights, spiders or snakes. When it comes to dogs, I fear Hemangiosarcoma because they are such hidden and deadly cancers. Last week my worst fear became reality, when out of the blue; my 11-year-old athletic Afghan “Halle” was diagnosed with this insidious, terminal disease.

Hemangiosarcoma is more common in dogs than in other species, and affects mostly middle-aged to older animals. Some breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden and Labrador Retrievers and Portuguese Water Dogs are more susceptible, suggesting a genetic predisposition. Scientists really don’t know what causes this form of cancer nor are there diagnostic tests to discover the disorder early enough to stop it in its tracks.

Image Credit: Joel Mills

Canine hemangiosarcoma is an intractable disease with no warning signs and no effective treatments. It is a type of cancer that begins in the cells that line blood vessels. Tumors usually develop in the spleen, heart or liver, although they can also been found in the skin, bone, kidney, brain and other locations. Hemangiosarcoma is almost always malignant, and tends to develop slowly, but spread rapidly, so that clinical signs are often not noticeable until the tumors have metastasized and/or ruptured, causing acute shock and collapse.

Sometimes the diagnosis is not even on the veterinary radar screen until after the dog’s demise. A friend’s eight-year -old female Golden Retriever seemed fine. Moments after guests left her husband’s birthday barbecue, the dog walked down the hall and died. One of our Afghan rescues, same age as the Golden, was in a foster home after her NYC owner passed away. Soon after her caretaker figured out that she was a show champion missing several years, the beautiful dog expired at the emergency hospital on Thanksgiving eve.

Last week Halle, who usually does everything with gymnast fanfare or at 40 mph, was not interested in a walk in the woods. Her appetite diminished. Afghans tend to be dramatic but none of my usual food tricks were working. I took her for an exam, and her blood work was fine. Next day when she wouldn’t eat at all and had a sudden, weird cough, she went back for x-rays. A large sac of fluid surrounded her heart. I rushed Halle to the emergency clinic where the specialists immediately began draining her chest. A tumor on her right atrium was most likely bleeding into the pericardial sac. She didn’t beat the odds on the ultrasound. As the fluid was removed, the suspected tumor reared its hideous head. No determining how long it had been there.

Once the fluid is gone the dog feels better because the heart is (temporarily) not being compressed. Halle was up and raring to go as soon as her sedation wore off. As the vet tech said, “She doesn’t look sick and she doesn’t look 11.” But dogs must stay at the ER at least overnight for initial monitoring because the fluid will return. “When?” is the question you’re afraid to ask. In hours, days, weeks, best case scenario- months. Surgery and chemo are not viable options. Draining again is questionable. We may explore the possibility of Chinese herbs. The cardiac site tends to have the shortest hemangiosarcoma life expectancy.

Halle is an absolute treasure. She is an affectionate, agreeable Afghan Hound rescue gal with a double dose of the comedienne gene. She snaps her teeth like castanets as if she were summoning a waiter when she wants us to serve her. Halle was the Maid of Afghan when her little Cavalier mix sister married our vet’s dog during a hospital wedding. She’s a dog that wouldn’t allow the police car to get ahead of her in the Sayville Pet Parade. A dog that delighted nursing home residents. She knew when to alight on a bed like a butterfly. A dog that got loose at a rescue event, and ran around East Northport in a Spider Woman costume, until a mystery man stepped out of a church to stop traffic with a huge board that looked so much like a cross. A canine sister that worked wonders bringing her brother Edgar Afghan Poe out of his shell after he was rescued from a New Mexico hoarder house.

Halle is home. Her beautiful coat is shaved on both sides for the EKG leads. She greeted her dad with a ballerina pirouette. The cancer in her heart has broken mine. Today I baked her chicken liver brownies. No matter how much time we have with our beloved pets, it is never enough. Each day is a gift.

Hope on the horizon:

According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, cancer affects one out of every three dogs. Of those, over half of them will die of cancer. Hundreds of canine cancer research projects are underway, thanks to the AKC Canine Health Foundation and Morris Animal Foundation, which are exploring inherited risks via the Canine Genome Project, diagnostic tests, new drugs and even individualized vaccines targeting tumors. Many breed clubs are helping fund studies that affect their breed. Findings have the potential to help people too.

“The passion that moves us forward is from experiencing what cancer really does to the ones we love. We are driven because there is a hole in our soul where once was the love of our dog,” Gary D. Nice, founder of the National Canine Cancer Foundation.

Protecting your pet:

Certain cancers can be stopped by early detection. Chase Away K9 Cancer is a division of the National Canine Cancer Foundation dedicated to “Chase” a six yearold dock diving champion Labrador Retriever who died from a fast-growing nasal tumor. Chase Away K9 Cancer launched the “Be Your Dog’s Hero” campaign which urges owners to take “10 on the 14th” each month and check their senior pets from head to toe for lumps and bumps and other early warning signs. The 14th was chosen to honor Chase’s birthday.

For Adoption at Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon:

“Brownie” 14-444 is the young pocket Pit who came into the shelter with her pups. She is a delightful dog who looks up at you adoringly and likes other dogs. “Oliver” 4-361 is a tabby kitten in autumn orange, part of a most affectionate litter in the lobby.

Article reposted from:

Written by: Jeanne Anderson

New hope for beloved family pets: New blood test for canine cancer

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Nearly one out of four dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime and 20 per cent of those will be lymphoma cases.

A team of researchers from the University of Leicester has helped Avacta Animal Health Ltd to develop a new user-friendly electronic system for diagnosing lymphoma in dogs in the early stages, and for remission monitoring.

Marketed as cLBT (canine lymphoma blood test), this is the first test of its kind to track the remission monitoring status of a dog after undergoing chemotherapy.

Led by Professor Alexander Gorban from the University’s Department of Mathematics, the University team together with experts from Avacta elaborated technology for differential diagnosis of canine lymphoma and for remission monitoring.

This technology is based on the cLBT, which detects the levels of two biomarkers, the acute phase proteins C-Reactive Protein and Haptoglobin.

Avacta Animal Health Ltd has been actively involved in developing new tests for canine lymphoma. Having collected a substantial library of biological samples in order to conduct research in this area, they have tested the data by working closely with the University of Leicester and its leading statistical and data processing techniques. Researchers analysed clinical data, tested various machine learning methods and selected the best approach to these problems.

Alexander Gorban, Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Leicester, said: “This was a very interesting project, and Avacta was a very dedicated, focused company, with clear goals and objectives. There were very important and useful ideas and concepts involved in the study, and it was a pleasure to know that our expertise as a department was needed and could be utilised through working alongside Avacta’s professional expertise.

“The project was very successful, and we would be very glad to welcome more partnerships of this type as it has also been very beneficial to the reputation of the University of Leicester’s Department of Mathematics. The project involved full academic and commercial success, which has included a full academic cycle as well as full software development, which makes it an incredibly diverse project to have worked on.”

During the study, which was funded by the University’s Innovation Partnership project, the academic team selected the best method to work with the data collected by Avacta and prepared the online diagnostic system over a period of six months. These methods included further development of the system for canine lymphoma differential diagnosis and for remission monitoring.

Chief Scientific Officer at Avacta Animal Health, Kevin Slater, said: “The collaboration we have with the University of Leicester’s Department of Mathematics is having a dramatic impact on the types of new tests that we can offer to vets and their owners. We are already widening the application of multivariate analysis to other diseases which commonly affect our pets, and subsequently, this work could also have benefits to human health.”

Article reposted from:

Original Source: University of Leicester

Journal Reference:
E.M. Mirkes, I. Alexandrakis, K. Slater, R. Tuli, A.N. Gorban. Computational diagnosis and risk evaluation for canine lymphoma. Computers in Biology and Medicine, 2014; 53: 279 DOI: 10.1016/j.compbiomed.2014.08.006

Paws for a Cause: Event set to benefit canine cancer

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

“My Best Friend’s Training” in LaMoille will be hosting their first ever Paws for a Cause fundraiser event this Saturday, Sept. 27.

This event is calling on all area dog owners to join in on a fun-filled afternoon with their furry friend, while at the same time supporting a great cause.

Jen Rhodes, owner of My Best Friend’s Training, has put together a number of activities for dogs to partake in – everything from a best kisser contest, to highest jumper, best costume, fastest dog, best catcher and more.

Jen Rhodes (right), owner of My Best Friend's Training, stands with her dog, Tosha. My Best Friend's Training will host a Paws for a Cause fundraiser event Saturday, Sept. 27. All monies raised will benefit the National Canine Cancer Foundation. Also pictured is Rhodes' daughter, Amanda Mancilla, with Kacy. (BCR photo/Goldie Currie)

There will be trophies and treats for the winners of each category.

The event is free and open to the public. For those who don’t have a furry friend but are interested in seeing the fun, Rhodes invites everyone to come watch the fun.

Rhodes explained the money raised at Saturday’s event will benefit the National Canine Cancer Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit corporation dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health issue in dogs by funding grants which are directly related to cancer research. These grants work to save dogs’ lives by finding cures, better treatments and accurate, cost-effective diagnostic methods in dealing with canine cancer.

“People don’t realize there is a foundation for dogs that will actually help you financially beat the disease or help the dog through the disease,” Rhodes said. “It’s for the cure. It’s for them to figure out what’s causing these different cancers. There are so many different cancers in canines.”

Rhodes said this is a topic that hits home for her, as she raises Rottweilers who are more prone to cancer. Just last year, Rhodes lost her 2-year-old Rottweiler to cancer.

“That was it for me. I was at the point where I knew we have to do something,” she said. “People don’t know this foundation is there to help them, and we’re looking to raise more awareness for it.”

Rhodes is looking forward to a great turnout on Saturday. The event begins at 2 p.m. and will be held at the location of My Best Friend’s Training at 28593 2650 North Avenue, LaMoille. There will be door prizes, a 50/50 drawing, activities for children, refreshments and a bake sale. For more information about the event search for My Best Friend’s Training on Facebook.

News reposted from:

Written by: Goldie Currie

Team Its For The Dogs Continues to Take a Stand Against Canine Cancer!

Friday, September 19th, 2014

In 2008 Debra Roseman decided she needed a new hobby and on Thanksgiving Day she set out and hit the pavement for her first run. Several months later, and many miles later, her husband found an event online called “The Bruiser Memorial 5k” being held in October 2009. Knowing his wife’s love for dogs, he suggested she go to the race which benefited canine cancer research.

Deb did sign up for the race that day and having known friends who lost their dogs to cancer she even took a shot at fundraising for the event.  It was only a few weeks out so she was short on time, but was able to raise several thousand dollars.

Soon thereafter, several other friends of Deb lost their dogs to cancer.  One was Frank Heffelfinger.  He decided to join Deb at the Bruiser race in 2010 and from there blossomed a friendship between Deb and Frank that will be forever cemented through the love of dogs.  Deb and Frank fundraised separately and again raised several thousands of dollars.  At the end of the race the wheels began to turn… what could be done as a TEAM?  And so Team It’s For the Dogs was formed.  With the announcement of the team, new members wanted to be a part of this special journey.  The members changed a little throughout the new few years, but all members except two (Deb and Terry Travis) had shared a common bond.  All had lost at least one dog to cancer.

For 2011 the team hit the ground running and held agility fun runs, raffles, wrist band sales, and 50/50s to raise funds.  The support of the dog community was amazing and the drive of the team increased.  They dreamed BIG and drove HARD and fundraised BIG.  The team idea proved to be a huge success and it was decided they would continue to keep the hope alive.

2012 was to be a different year for Deb.  Early in January after feeding her 4 dogs breakfast, one collapsed at her feet.  Hannah was rushed to the ER but there was nothing that could be done for her.  Heart based hemangiosarcoma had claimed her life.  The loss of Hannah drove Deb to drive harder and to drive her team harder than ever.  The raffles became bigger.  The agility runs became more numerous.  Everything became bigger and better.  Unfortunately Deb’s experience with cancer was not to stop there.  In April 2013 she had to give her Elkhound the gift of no more suffering.  He had been diagnosed with nasal cancer a few months prior.    In addition to what had already been done in years past, Deb added an obedience match and an online auction to the mix of fundraising opportunities.  Driven now more than ever by the loss of two of her own beloved canine companions.

Over the years that Deb and Frank ran the race individually, combined with the three years of team fundraising, Team It’s For The Dogs has raised over $50,000 for canine cancer research.  Even though the Bruiser Memorial was retired, they made the decision to continue fighting as a team.  With the hope that someday that helpless feeling of a cancer diagnosis would be no more.  That HOPE for LIFE will prevail…

See the highlights from their very first event on their own. Which won’t be their last!

For the past three years, Team It’s For The Dogs has participated in The Bruiser Memorial 5k to raise funds for canine cancer research.  In conjunction with running the race and traditional fundraising, the team has run several types of events to raise money including memorial agility runs, raffles, online auctions, 50/50s and obedience matches.

While looking for even more ways to raise money for this cause that is so near and dear to all of our hearts, Paul Mount of PMCC Services LLC approached us with the idea of holding a UKI fundraising agility trial.   Given “The Bruiser” had retired after 5 very successful years leaving us without a “base” event, we decided to GO FOR IT!

In order to “go for it” however, we needed to keep expenses as low as possible.  We were very delighted to learn that Darryl Warren would DONATE his judging services and that K9Jym in Colmar, PA would DONATE the use of their facility to us!  Additionally, Paul also would be donating back a large portion of the entry fees.

We didn’t stop there though!  We looked for more ways we could raise funds at the trial and along with having a wonderful spread of amazing raffle prizes donated by ourselves and our various dog loving friends, we also offered “mulligan runs”.  If you wanted to run a course again for practice you could pay $5 at the gate and get training time in the ring.

Now that all of that was set, we all anxiously awaited for the big day, August 23, 2014.

The day arrived and it could not have been more perfect.  The trial was a big success and the raffle and mulligan runs were very well received.   After all was said and done, along with a few flat donations including a rather large personal donation from the trial secretary, we sat down and crunched the numbers and learned that we raised $3,100!  This money is being donated to the National Canine Cancer Foundation with a request it be used to help fund their Hemangiosarcoma Research Project.

Huge thank you to EVERYONE involved in this inaugural event… The exhibitors, the volunteers, our secretary Paul, Debb and Roy of K9Jym, and our judge Darryl.   We are looking forward to next year already!

Why are golden retrievers so susceptible to cancer: particularly lymphoma?

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

We don’t yet know exactly why 60% of golden retrievers will get cancer. We know this is about twice the rate for other dogs and we know it is definitely genetic. What we don’t know yet is which specific genes are involved.

We also don’t know why golden retrievers from the U.S. are more likely to end up with a form of cancer called hemangiosarcoma. Or why golden retrievers from the U.K. are more likely to get lymphoma. (Genetics almost certainly explains most of this difference too.)

Undoubtedly we will one day know all of these things. Dogs within a single breed are so alike genetically that it should be possible to find the responsible gene(s). Unfortunately, this inbreeding is also why golden retrievers get cancer so often in the first place.

Of course inbreeding doesn’t always mean an increased risk for cancer. If that were the case, then all purebred dogs would have around the same cancer risk. They don’t. But most of them do have other breed-specific health problems related to their inbreeding.

For example, golden retrievers get cancer. German shepherds suffer hip problems. Bulldogs have skin problems. Dalmatians get kidney stones. And so on.

Poor thing has a 60% chance of getting cancer.

The particular health problems a purebred dog has depends on its selected traits and what disease genes its founding ancestors were unlucky enough to have. The last part is called the “founder effect” and it happens in people too.

Basically the founding dogs of the golden retriever breed happened to have genes that increased their risk for cancer. Since all golden retrievers come from these founders and no new genes are being added to the gene pool, the cancer causing genes are recycled over and over in the population. For now, cancer is trapped in the golden retriever gene pool.

Everyone has Disease Genes

It isn’t surprising that the ancestors of all golden retrievers had genes that increased their risk for getting cancer. Every animal (including dogs and people) have a few deadly genetic diseases lurking in their DNA. Two things keep us all from being riddled with those diseases though.

First, we tend to all have different sets of disease causing gene versions. And second, these diseases usually require that you get the bum gene from both mom and dad.

We are all carriers for 5-10 genetic diseases.

So to end up with a disease, both parents have to have a copy of the disease-causing gene version AND they both have to pass it down to you. This tends not to be very common unless the parents are related.

Related animals share more genes in common. This means that if they have kids, they are more likely to pass on many of the same gene versions including those that cause disease. The end result is increased risk for the diseases that run in that family.

This risk increases even more if the parents are very closely related. For example, if they are inbred for tens or hundreds of generations.

Golden retrievers, like every other pure breed of dogs, undoubtedly started from a small group of ancestors. Some of these dogs had a version of a gene that increased their risk for cancer. They passed this risk down to their pups. And down to every generation to the present day.

Since dog breeds started from so few ancestors such a short time ago, all dogs within a breed are essentially related. In nature this problem is usually solved by breeding outside of the family. But this isn’t possible if a dog is to remain a purebred.

Goldens with Less Cancer

As I hinted at in the previous section, an obvious answer to solving golden retrievers’ cancer problems is to stop the inbreeding. Simply breed golden retrievers with other dogs and in a few generations, the risk should drop down to normal levels. Of course then you’d lose some of the traits that people want in a golden retriever.

Another possibility is to find the gene involved, find golden retrievers that lack the gene version that increases their cancer risk, and breed only those dogs lacking the problem gene. The new golden retriever breed would then only have the usual 33% chance of getting cancer.

This sounds great in theory but may not be possible in practice. First off, it may be that golden retrievers all have two copies of the gene version that increases their risk for cancer. If this is the case, then it may not be easy to find any golden retrievers that don’t have the trouble gene.

A second reason is that the disease version of the gene might be involved in some trait that makes a golden retriever a golden retriever (think golden coat). If this is the case, then if you breed out the disease, you end up with a dog that isn’t a golden retriever anymore.

These issues sound theoretical, but they aren’t. Something very similar happened with Dalmatians.

Dalmatians are especially prone to kidney stones instead of cancer. Researchers found that all Dalmatians had two copies of the version of the gene that led to kidney stones meaning there was no easy way to breed it away.

It isn't possible to separate spots from kidney stones.

Breeders tried to engineer a Dalmatian without the kidney stone version of the gene by breeding them with the closely related Pointer. Eventually, through lots of breeding back with Dalmations, they got a dog that looked very much like a Dalmatian that didn’t suffer from kidney stones. Except that its spots were never quite right.

Further study showed that Dalmatian spotting depended on the version of the gene that led to kidney stones. Get rid of kidney stones and you don’t have a true Dalmatian anymore. If something similar is happening in golden retrievers, it may not be possible to make a golden retriever less cancer prone.

What this all means is that even if breeders find the responsible gene, they may not be able to do anything about golden retrievers’ increased cancer risk if they want to keep the golden retriever breed as is. Luckily for the dogs, having a gene version that increases your risk for cancer does not mean you will for sure get cancer.

Cancer Genes

For the most part, people and dogs do not inherit genes that cause cancer. Instead they get genes that make them more likely to develop the disease.

What this means is that even if a dog inherits a gene like this, it won’t get cancer for sure. And a pet owner may be able to make getting the cancer less likely by controlling the animal’s environment.

Cancer starts when a gene goes haywire and causes a cell to grow when it shouldn’t (or to not die when it should). The gene goes bad because it gets damaged or mutated.

We can't avoid some damage to our DNA.

This mutation can come from the environment. That’s why sunlight and certain chemicals can cause cancer. So if an owner keeps a dog away from harmful chemicals and other mutagens, it can decrease the dog’s chances for cancer. But it won’t eliminate them.

Mutations can also happen by accident when our cells are dividing. Each time a cell divides, it has to copy its DNA. Cells are very good at copying their DNA, but they aren’t perfect. The occasional mistake slips through.

If that mistake is in a gene that controls growth, then the cell will grow uncontrollably. But this is usually only a problem if the mistake happens in both copies of a dog’s (or person’s) genes.

Animals that are at an increased risk for cancer often have one of their growth genes pre-mutated. This means they need just one mutation to end up with cancer. This is why they tend to get cancer both more often and at a younger age.

So even if golden retrievers end up with the “bad” version of the gene, they won’t get cancer for sure. They’ll just be at an increased risk.

Article reposted from:

Written by: Dr. D. Barry Starr, Stanford University

Compound Derived From a Mushroom Lengthens Survival Time in Dogs with Cancer

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Dogs with hemangiosarcoma that were treated with a compound derived from the Coriolus versicolor mushroom had the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease. These promising findings offer hope that the compound may one day offer cancer patients – human and canine alike – a viable alternative or complementary treatment to traditional chemotherapies.

The study was conducted by two University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine faculty. Dorothy Cimino Brown is professor and chair of the Department of Clinical Studies and director of the Veterinary Clinical Investigation Center. Jennifer Reetz is an attending radiologist in the Department of Clinical Studies. They published their findings in an open-access article in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The Coriolus versicolor mushroom, known commonly as the Yunzhi mushroom, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. The compound in the mushroom that is believed to have immune-boosting properties is polysaccharopeptide, or PSP. In the last two decades, some studies have suggested that PSP also has a tumor-fighting effect.

“There have been a series of studies looking at groups of people with cancer,” Cimino Brown said. “The issue with those studies is that they weren’t necessarily measuring what most people would think is the most clinically important result, which is, do people taking PSP live longer?”

To address this critical question, Cimino Brown and Reetz pursued a study in dogs with naturally occurring hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive, invasive cancer that arises from the blood cells and typically affects the spleen. It commonly strikes golden retrievers and German shepherds.

Fifteen dogs that had been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma participated in the trial. Divided into three groups of five, each group received a different dose – 25, 50 or 100 mg/kg/day — of I’m-Yunity, a formulation of PSP that has been tested for consistency and good manufacturing processes.

The owners were instructed to give their dog capsules of I’m-Yunity, compounded by Penn pharmacists, daily. Each month, the owners brought their dogs to Penn’s Ryan Veterinary Hospital for follow-up visits. There, the researchers took blood samples and conducted ultrasounds to determine the extent that tumors developed or grew and spread in the dogs’ bodies.

Based on the ultimate endpoints – how quickly the tumors progressed and how long the dogs actually lived — the results of the researchers’ trial suggest that the I’m-Yunity was effectively fighting the tumors.

“We were shocked,” Cimino Brown said. “Prior to this, the longest reported median survival time of dogs with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen that underwent no further treatment was 86 days. We had dogs that lived beyond a year with nothing other than this mushroom as treatment.”

There were not statistically significant differences in survival between the three dosage groups, though the median survival time was highest in the 100 mg group, at 199 days, eclipsing the previously reported median survival time.

The results were so surprising, in fact, that the researchers asked Penn Vet pathologists to recheck the dogs’ tissue biopsies to make sure that the dogs really had the disease.

“They reread the samples and said, yes, it’s really hemangiosarcoma,” Cimino Brown said.

Chemotherapy is available for treating hemangiosarcoma, but many owners opt not to pursue that treatment once their dog is diagnosed.

“It doesn’t hugely increase survival, it’s expensive and it means a lot of back and forth to the vet for the dog,” Cimino Brown said. “So you have to figure in quality of life.”

While I’m-Yunity is not inexpensive, if proven effective, it would offer owners a way of extending their pet’s life without regular trips to the vet. As an added benefit, Cimino Brown and Reetz have found no evidence of adverse effects from the PSP treatment.

The researchers are now getting ready to pursue further trials of I’m-Yunity in dogs with hemangiosarcoma to confirm and refine their results. One trial will compare I’m-Yunity to a placebo for those owners who opt not to pursue chemotherapy in their pet and another will compare the compound to standard-of-care chemotherapy.

Depending on those results, veterinarians could eventually prescribe the compound for treating hemangiosarcoma, and perhaps other cancers, in dogs. The company that manufacturers I’m-Yunity may also pursue large-scale clinical trials in humans.

“Although hemangiosarcoma is a very sad and devastating disease,” Cimino Brown said, “in the long term, if we prove that this works, this treatment can be a really nice alternative for owners to have increased quality time with their pet at the end of its life.”

News reposted from:

My Dog Has Cancer: What Do I Need to Know?

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Any pet owner who has been told their animal has cancer knows the two emotions: anxiety for the beloved pet’s life, and hope for an effective treatment.

“Many people consider their dogs and cats members of the family,” says Food and Drug Administration veterinarian Lisa Troutman. “Just as FDA reviews drugs for humans for safety and effectiveness before they can go on the market, the agency does the same for treatments for animals.”

Take, for instance, cancer, which accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Although pets of any age can have cancer, the longer they live, the greater the likelihood of developing it. Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans.

“Pets are living longer because of preventative health care. And we’re able to diagnose cancers earlier. As a result there is an increased need for better cancer treatments,” Troutman notes.

Until very recently, the only drugs available to treat cancer in animals were those approved for use in humans. But in the last few years, veterinary drug sponsors (the pharmaceutical companies developing the drugs) have brought to market treatments meant specifically for animals.

Troutman explains that “FDA works closely with these companies to discuss how they can demonstrate that their innovative veterinary drugs are safe and effective, and to address questions that arise during the development process.”

FDA Evaluates Safety and Effectiveness of Medicines

To evaluate the safety of any new veterinary drug, companies typically conduct a study in a small number of healthy animals in the same species that the drug is intended for (for example, if the drug is for dogs, it will be tried first in healthy dogs). The findings help the veterinarian anticipate potential side effects when the drug is used to treat a patient and help minimize adverse events that might affect the pet’s quality of life.

Companies also must show in controlled studies that the drug works—that it is effective when used according to the label. For example, for a drug intended for a particular kind of cancer, companies typically run a clinical trial at multiple animal hospitals where pets are being treated for that cancer. In these studies, the patients may receive either the drug being studied or a control. Although the owners and veterinarians are aware that their pets and patients could receive either the experimental drug or the control — a placebo — they don’t know which treatment they actually get. In either case, owners have the option to drop out of a study at any time.

When the goal is to treat a form of cancer that affects smaller numbers of animals, drug companies can use a pathway called conditional approval to bring drug treatments to market more quickly. Conditional approval allows a company to make its drug available to patients after proving the drug fully meets the FDA standard for safety, and showing that there is a reasonable expectation that the treatment is effective.

“Often small exploratory studies are conducted to support a reasonable expectation of effectiveness,” Troutman says.

Conditional approvals have both pros and cons. On the plus side, they allow sponsors to provide patients quicker access to innovative treatments without waiting for the development of evidence of effectiveness that would satisfy the requirement for a full approval.

“On the other hand, because the studies used to support a reasonable expectation of effectiveness are small, the drugs may not turn out to be effective when they are used in greater numbers of animals,” Troutman says.

FDA may allow, through annual renewals, the conditionally-approved products to stay on the market for up to five years while the company collects the required effectiveness data to support a new animal drug application for full approval. Conditional approval automatically expires at the end of five years and the drug is removed from the market if the company has not fully demonstrated that the drug is effective.

FDA-Approved Drugs for Cancer in Dogs

Troutman says that sponsors are continuing to develop innovative treatments for different types of cancer in dogs.

“We’re looking at therapies that are more targeted now,” she says. Scientists are identifying proteins or other substances unique to cancer cells and developing treatments that target those substances without harming healthy cells.

FDA has approved three drugs, two of them conditionally, to treat cancer in dogs:

  • Palladia (toceranib phosphate), for the treatment of mast cell tumors, was approved in 2009;
  • Kinavet-CA1 (masitinib mesylate), for the treatment of mast cell tumors, was conditionally approved in 2010; and
  • Paccal Vet-CA1 (paclitaxel for injection), for the treatment of mammary carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, was conditionally approved in 2014.

To date, there are no FDA-approved treatments for cancer in cats. Most cancer treatments for dogs and cats use drugs that FDA has approved for use in humans.

What are the Warning Signs?

The warning signs of cancer in dogs are similar to those in people, Troutman says: a lump or bump, a wound that doesn’t heal, any kind of swelling, abnormal bleeding. But generally, a pet owner should keep an eye out for what Troutman calls “the basics —changes in the normal functions of eating, drinking, peeing, pooping and sleeping —and contact their veterinarian if they have concerns.

“Emotional state, such as being withdrawn and irritable, can be another sign,” she says.

Both general veterinary practitioners and veterinary oncologists, as well as other specialists, treat cancer in cats and dogs. In general, veterinary practitioners work with veterinary oncologists to provide the diagnosis and the follow-up care for the pet during treatment, which may include blood work and imaging (such as x-rays or ultrasound examinations) to monitor the animal’s progress.

There’s a fundamental difference between treating cancer in pets versus people. “Side effects from cancer treatment are usually fewer than those seen in people, and veterinarians work very hard to manage those side effects and maintain quality of life,” Troutman says. “There are even drugs that have been brought to market with the intent of managing common side effects, like vomiting.”

Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian

Questions that pet owners may want to ask their veterinarian and veterinary oncologist when their pet has been diagnosed with cancer include:

  • What treatments are available?
  • What is the prognosis with each treatment?
  • What are the side effects of each treatment and how will they affect my pet’s quality of life?
  • How long will I need to treat my pet?
  • What is the cost of each treatment?
  • How many visits back to the veterinarian are needed?

Pet owners who want to investigate clinical trials for their animal can use the Veterinary Cancer Society’s searchable database at

Article reposted from:

Global snapshot of infectious canine cancer shows how to control the disease

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Research published in BMC Veterinary Research could assist veterinarians and policy-makers in the future. In this guest post, Andrea Strakova describes the history and distribution of canine cancer, an infectious disease that not only infects ‘man’s best friend’ but threatens the existence of the Tasmanian devil. In Fighting a contagious cancer, Fellow researcher, Elizabeth Murchison, speaks about the fight to save the Taz.

Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor (CTVT) is a canine infectious disease that results in the appearance of tumors, usually associated with the external genitalia, in both male and female dogs. It is one of only two known naturally occurring clonally transmissible cancers, which are spread by the transfer of living cancer cells between individuals. CTVT is usually spread during mating, possibly facilitated by injuries incurred during coitus.

CTVT originally arose as a cancer in one dog that lived approximately 11,000 years ago and has since survived as a clonal lineage by transmitting through the dog population as an infectious disease. It is striking that since the emergence of this cancer in a single dog, its cells have efficiently colonized dog populations throughout the world. Although previous studies had indicated the broad distribution of CTVT, our current study has provided the most comprehensive information so far regarding the distribution of the disease.

To investigate the current global distribution of the disease, we performed a crowdsourcing study by soliciting CTVT information from veterinarians around the world. The responses to this survey, received from 645 individuals in 109 countries, indicated that CTVT is endemic in at least 90 countries worldwide. The extraordinary efficiency of CTVT’s global spread was highlighted by its presence in some of the world’s most isolated communities and islands, including the Solomon Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji, Reunion, Mauritius, several islands in Micronesia, remote parts of Siberia, Indian reservations in Arizona and North Dakota and Aboriginal communities in Northern Australia.

Furthermore, our study also revealed that although CTVT has spread worldwide, its prevalence rarely appears to rise above 10% in affected dog populations, suggesting that only a proportion of dogs may be susceptible to CTVT infection at any one time. This contrasts with the epidemiological patterns observed in the only other known naturally occurring contagious cancer, the transmissible facial tumor affecting Tasmanian devils, in which the disease prevalence usually rises above 50% and causes population collapse.

The information on worldwide distribution and prevalence of CTVT provided as a result of our survey is of importance to veterinarians and dog owners in many countries worldwide, as although CTVT can usually be effectively treated, lack of awareness of the disease and poor access to veterinary care can cause CTVT to become a welfare concern.

Additionally, our study has implicated free-roaming dogs as a reservoir for the disease and has shown that the disease was eradicated in the UK during the twentieth century as an unintentional result of the introduction of dog control policies. We also found that dog spaying and neutering are associated with lower CTVT prevalence, further highlighting the possible health benefits of dog sterilization.

Our results add to the existing body of evidence which suggests that careful management of free-roaming dog populations, as well as the inclusion of CTVT in dog import/export quarantine policies, may help to control CTVT spread.

In the future, further studies into the pathogenesis and spread of CTVT may lead to improved methods for disease prevention, detection, monitoring and treatment. In addition, greater understanding of the adaptations that have allowed this unique long-lived cancer to efficiently colonize the world’s dog population, may shed light on the evolutionary processes underpinning cancer more generally.

Article reposted from:

Written by: Alanna Orpen
More research information: The changing global distribution and prevalence of canine transmissible venereal tumor. Andrea Strakova and Elizabeth Murchison, BMC Veterinary Research 2014, 10: 168, DOI: 10.1186/s12917-014-0168-9