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

Clinical trials on man's best friend could be a win-win for both dogs and people

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Could Fido Fetch a Cure?

Dogs get cancer, too. And they have even fewer treatment options than their human owners do. But an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, offers a glimmer of hope. It explores how clinical trials on man’s best friend could be a win-win for both dogs and people.

Judith Lavelle, an intern at C&EN, notes that only a small percentage of potential human cancer drugs get approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Many of them fail when tested in people in clinical trials. A major reason for this late failure is that animal models — typically mice with tumors grafted onto them — don’t adequately reflect what happens when humans develop tumors spontaneously. Research with pet dogs that develop cancer out of the blue, however, could lead to better treatments. Such studies also could provide more relevant information about cancer’s genetic basis since canines are more closely related to humans than mice are.

Because of these potential benefits, the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (COTC) was formed. COTC is a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health and 22 veterinary hospitals in the U.S., and it is currently testing promising drug candidates in dogs that have naturally developed cancer. The notion of “animal testing” still raises red flags for some people, but veterinarians and researchers see this new field of comparative oncology as a way to humanely treat sick animals while gaining valuable insight into new treatments for people with cancer.

News reposted from:

Goodbye to our sweet Emma

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Well it breaks my heart to say we had to say goodbye to our sweet Emma. She had Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) in the heart and spread to the lungs. Emma was a wonderful dog with a unique personality. She did what she wanted when she wanted. Our requests, if that is what you wanted to even call them, to her were minor suggestions and if she was in the mood she would do them. But she was a loving dog and awesome with our young kids even when at the end she was so sick.

As I finally brought myself to write this, more than 10 days after Emma passed, I read the post my wife, Sara wrote on her FB page, the day Emma passed and I knew right then that her words told how much both Sara and I felt about Emma and how much we both loved our sweet Emma. Here is what Sara wrote:

“Today is the end of an era. It is a sad day, a day of loss. Today is the day we have lost the 7th dog we have loved to cancer. She was 9, just barely 9. Emma, the Yak, my sweet girl, my smart girl is gone. She was truly my challenge dog. She pushed me to learn more about dog behavior and training than any of our others. She was opinionated, vocal, full of life and a she loved her tennis balls and ice. She was mellow and wound up like a puppy. She was so very patient with the kids and loving. She wanted to be challenged, she wanted to be lazy and roll in the grass. She was so very golden. The loss of Emma marks the first time in my life, and since Gary and I have been together that we do not have a Golden. It is weird. It is a strange feeling to only have one dog now too. My sweet Emma, run free, give your boys at the rainbow bridge a good talking to and tell them we miss them too.” – Sara Nice

What truly consoles me at this time of our lose, is the love, caring and passion that all of your on this FB page show for your dogs and the sympathy and consolation you share with those who come to this FB to share their stories of their sweet pups they have lost to Cancer.

And what give me the most hope is to know that the NCCF, at present, are reaching out to 100’s of thousands to help eliminate Cancer as a major health issue and increase survival rates for dogs through Education, Outreach and Research. And speaking of research, this year, we are funding six grants and out of those six grants, two are research on HSA and one is on lung Cancer, which can happen as Cancer spreads.

I encourage you to read about those grants on our page….

Bye my Sweet Emma. I will miss you so much.

- Gary


Cancer in Dogs Offers Insights for Humans

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Cancer in Dogs Offers Insights for Humans

Days after agreeing to address a two-day workshop on how clinical studies for pets with naturally occurring tumors can be integrated into developing drugs for human cancers, the topic hit home in the worst way for J. Leonard (Len) Lichtenfeld, M.D.

Dogs develop cancer as they age, just like people. (iStock/© moxumbic)

Dr. Lichtenfeld, deputy CMO for the national office of the American Cancer Society, learned that his 11-year-old golden retriever, Lily, developed swelling in her face. The next day, Dr. Lichtenfeld’s family veterinarian delivered the sad news: Lily had lymphoma. A week later, a mass found on her back leg turned out to be a sarcoma. Early last month, Lily died peacefully.

“This became, quite frankly, very personal,” Dr. Lichtenfeld told attendees June 9 at the workshop’s wrap-up session, the grief audible in his voice.

The next day, he shared the story on his blog. “Our family is still mourning the loss of our lovely Lily. She was so much a part of our lives with a docile demeanor that made her very special and very much loved,” Dr. Lichtenfeld wrote. “The question becomes for us and for so many who have had similar experiences: What can we do to honor those precious lives which gave us so much unconditional love? Is there an opportunity to make life better for our companions and at the same time inform the human condition?”

Answers to those questions will emerge, researchers hope, through comparative oncology, the branch of cancer research focused on studying naturally occurring cancer models in pets, then applying what is learned from them to human cancer R&D.

Acknowledging the progress and addressing the challenges of comparative oncology was the goal of the workshop, hosted by the Institute of Medicine’s National Cancer Policy Forum. Twenty-one researchers and other stakeholders led attendees in identifying two priorities for veterinary oncology research: more fully characterizing the genetic makeup of tumors in both dogs and people, and further investigating the role of cancer immunology in dogs.

Cancer Commonalities

Dogs appear to be ideal pets for such research, since strong similarities in the genetic aberrations and gene-expression patterns of dog and human cancers have been confirmed in the decade since the sequencing of the dog genome. Dogs develop cancer as they age, just like people. Because tumors develop spontaneously, the tumor population is heterogeneous, as it is in humans. The size of tumors is similar in both dogs and humans, as is the speed of tumor growth, notes Timothy M. Fan, D.V.M., Ph.D., associate professor of veterinary clinical medicine at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In 2007, Dr. Fan and colleagues began studying the anticancer drug procaspase-activating compound-1 (PAC-1) in pet dogs with naturally occurring lymphomas and osteosarcomas. PAC-1 is a small molecule designed to activate procaspase-3 to caspase-3, resulting in apoptosis of cancer cells in patients with advanced malignancies.

PAC-1 was developed by another U-of-I professor, Paul J. Hergenrother, Ph.D., who collaborated with Dr. Fan on testing the drug in canine cancer patients. By itself, PAC-1 exhibits only a modest activity. It appears to be more effective in combination therapy. For example, it enhances the activities of cancer-fighting therapies such as radiation, monoclonal antibodies, and chemotherapy.

One canine patient, an eight-year-old Labrador retriever whose MRI was consistent with meningioma, showed positive results after being treated with a combination of oral PAC-1 and the chemotherapy drug temozolomide.

“We had an over 50% reduction in tumor volume with that combination, which is very unusual,” Dr. Fan told GEN. “We don’t typically see responses in that tumor with a conventional chemotherapeutic agent. When we combined it with PAC-1, we really had a pretty good response. But again, it’s very, very early data.”

It is also too soon, Dr. Fan added, to say whether PAC-1 will prove better at fighting brain cancers than cancers outside the brain, where the compound has also generated promising findings in preliminary studies. In pets with brain cancer, he said, the early positive responses with PAC-1 likely reflect both its ability to get into the brain—it penetrates the blood-brain barrier—and its ability to combine with other anti-brain cancer agents.

Given its favorable characteristic of penetrating into the brain, PAC-1 is now envisioned primarily as a way to treat cancers that affect the brain or central nervous system, Dr. Fan added.

PAC-1 is now the subject of a Phase I trial in humans being sponsored by U of I and a university-launched startup, Vanquish Oncology, which was formed to commercialize targeted cancer therapies. Dr. Hergenrother is a co-founder of Vanquish, for which Dr. Fan is a paid consultant and shareholder.

The trial’s initial study will evaluate PAC-1 in cancer patients without brain involvement. After the completion of that study, the second part of the trial will assess PAC-1 activity in combination with temozolomide for people with glioblastoma multiforme.

Dr. Fan and colleagues hope PAC-1 will prove effective against cancer in people and dogs. Only a handful of cancer drugs are available for canine patients:

  • Palladia (toceranib phosphate), the first canine cancer treatment, is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor indicated for mast cell tumors. The drug won FDA approval in 2009 before its current manufacturer, Zoetis, was spun off from Pfizer.
  • Kinavet CA-1 (masitinib mesylate), from AB Science, has conditional FDA approval for use against mast cell tumors.
  • Paccal Vet-CA1 (paclitaxel for injection) has conditional FDA approval for use against mammary carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It was developed by Oasmia Pharmaceutical, which recently regained exclusive global distribution rights from Zoetis. On July 7, Oasmia said that it had established a U.S. sales company to market the drug.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has fully licensed the canine melanoma vaccine Oncept, a xenogeneic DNA expressing the human tyrosinase gene and marketed by Sanofi’s Merial. The USDA has also conditionally licensed a pair of monoclonal antibody therapies marketed by Aratana Therapeutics—AT-005 for T-cell lymphoma, which targets CD-52, and AT-004 for B-cell lymphoma, which targets CD-20.

Developing Best Practices

As trials for new treatment candidates take shape, oncologists will need to agree on best scientific and ethical practices for conducting clinical trials for animal patients, Rodney Page, D.V.M., director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University, stated at the workshop.

As with human trials, he said, clinical trials for animals should include peer review; accountability and oversight measures (such as open access to all primary data, including negative data); a trials registry; an informed consent process; a continuous education and improvement process; and best supportive care, including relief of pain and other distressing symptoms.

“[We have an opportunity to] take advantage of…the human regulations for clinical trial conduct that are already in existence,” Dr. Page told GEN. “We don’t have to reinvent many of the wheels.”

According to Dr. Page, the workshop identified two key research priorities:

  1. Better characterize the genetics of cancers in companion animals. Doing so would be similar to creating The Cancer Genome Atlas,” Dr. Page said, referring to the effort aimed at applying genome analysis technologies, including large-scale genome sequencing, to better understand the molecular basis of human cancer. The Atlas is a joint effort of two NIH divisions, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute.
  2. Further investigate the immune system in the dog. This line of inquiry requires the development of new tools that can reveal how the canine immune system responds to cancer and to certain products.

While investigational drugs have successfully fought cancer in mouse models, only about 1 of every 10 agents that show significant activity in mice will show similar activity in humans. Lab-induced cancers in mice differ greatly from the cancers of people and dogs. And some human cancers seldom occur in dogs, such as the diet-driven colon cancer. Yet researchers are often limited to comparisons with mice and humans, Dr. Page said, given the much bigger “toolbox” of available research.

Mice will continue to be used in cancer research: They are cheaper to raise, they have shorter lifespans, and they can produce specific and uniform genetic traits. PAC-1 is being studied in mice, Dr. Fan said, as well as in vitro in cell cultures combining low levels of the compound with small-molecule inhibitors.

Ultimately, fighting canine cancers and translating those insights to humans will require integrating clinical trials for pets into translational cancer research and development. Coordinating such trials is the work of the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (COTC), a network of 20 academic comparative oncology centers managed by the Comparative Oncology Program, a resource launched by the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research.

Another consortium valuable to studying canine cancer focuses on tissue and other samples from patients. The not-for-profit Canine Comparative Oncology & Genomics Consortium (CCOGC) operates the Pfizer-CCOGC Biospecimen Repository, which houses more than 60,000 samples across seven spontaneously arising cancers: osteosarcoma, lymphoma, melanoma, pulmonary tumors, mast cell tumor, soft tissue sarcomas, and hemangiosarcoma.

Article reposted from:
By Alex Philippidis

Ohio State University Faculty member awarded grant through National Canine Cancer Foundation

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Dr. Gwendolen Lorch, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, was featured in a Columbus CEO article about pets with allergy symptoms.

The story, “Pet allergies are big business,” explains how there are very few vaccines or treatment options for pets with allergies. One problem is that the diagnostics take time and money, just like human medicine. There seems to be more pets that experience allergy symptoms in the Midwest, Lorch said.

According to the article, the most common canine breeds with a predisposition for allergies are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Golden Doodles, Pugs, Bulldogs and Boston Terriers. Flea Allergic Dermatitis is the most prevelant allergy among both cats and dogs, affecting the skin.

Not only is Lorch working with dogs that have allergies, she’s also in the process of helping those with lung cancer. She is the first veterinarian from Ohio to be awarded a grant from the National Canine Cancer Foundation.

She is utilizing the $97,000 grant in her research, which focuses on targeting heat shock proteins in canine lung cancer. She’s collaborating with Dr. David Carbone, thoracic oncology specialist at The James Cancer Hospital.

Article source:

The Ethics of Cancer Treatment For Dogs

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

There are varying opinions concerning the ethics of canine cancer treatment. One of the reasons many people give for this line of thinking is the opinion the money on research and cancer treatment should be directed toward humans rather than animals. While this may appear to be a realistic line of thinking, the reality is that veterinary hospitals work completely separate from hospitals that treat people. In addition, the work oncologists do treating animals provides more knowledge and a better understanding of cancer, a step that can only help provide more effective cancer treatment for humans.

Another reason people give for feeling cancer treatment for dogs is unethical is because they have the misconception that animals endure the same side effects of chemotherapy that humans do. In humans the treatment is more invasive because oncologists are attempting to kill the cancer where canine oncologists are working toward slowing the spread of the cancer rather than killing the cancer cells completely. In some types of cancer the only solution is amputation, and only those who are directly involved can decide if the loss of a dog’s limb is too unpleasant for either dog or owner to accept. Strangely, people do not have as much reluctance about treating dogs for other severe conditions including kidney failure or heart disease even though the treatments seldom provide the quality of life a dog acquires following cancer treatment. In fact, the side effects from the treatment of many of these potentially debilitating conditions are often worse than the side effects of canine cancer treatment.

Another reason some people believe treating animals for cancer is unethical is because they believe there is very little extra time added to the dogs lives. Any treatment is a gamble, even for humans—there are many cases of people who undergo invasive chemotherapy and radiation and still do sometimes only live a few months because the cancer is so aggressive and quick moving. There is never a way to determine with any degree of certainty how much longer your dog will live if you agree to treat him for his cancer. However, if you don’t provide some kind of treatment for malignant dog carcinoma, it is unlikely they will survive more than a few months. In addition, you may be lucky enough to discover the tumor is benign and will not cause any additional harm to your dog.

Article reposted from:

How high-tech treatments add hope, and cost, to keeping a sick pet alive

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

If your golden retriever was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, you were likely given two options: chemotherapy or compassionate euthanasia. Today, you may have access to a variety of advanced treatments, such as stents that deliver high doses of chemotherapy straight to the cancerous growth, the injection of tiny beads that block the tumor’s blood supply or precise radiation guided by high-definition imagery. You may even be able to take advantage of what many veterinary oncologists consider the holy grail: new immunotherapies that harness your pet’s immune system to launch an attack on cancerous cells.

Veterinary assistants Cory Wakamatsu, left, and Talon McKee prep Coach, a year-old Bernese mountain dog, for surgery with Brynn Schmidt, lead anesthesia technician, right, at the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. (Christina House, For the Los Angeles Times)

“That’s what is so cool about this,” says Dr. John Chretin, head of oncology at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. Not only are there more treatment options available, but “nowadays, we’re getting better at predicting which cancers will do better with minimal therapy or if we need to break out the big guns.”

Cancer treatment is one area that has seen a huge transformation — in part because of new imaging techniques that allow veterinarians to know exactly what they’re dealing with. But high-definition imaging has also allowed for the development of minimally invasive procedures used to treat such conditions as kidney stones, collapsed airways, blood clots and broken bones.

High-tech tools that are standard equipment in human medicine, such as MRI machines, CT scanners and specialized scopes, have only recently become more widely used in veterinary medicine.

“We have the same technology available as human medicine; the only limiting factor is the cost,” says Dr. David Proulx, head of radiation oncology at California Veterinary Specialists in Carlsbad. Medical equipment costs the same whether you use it on a person or a poodle, so most veterinary practices can’t afford to invest in the latest machines. However, as human facilities upgrade to newer, better machines, veterinary hospitals can buy secondhand equipment.

There are far fewer research studies in veterinary medicine than there are in human medicine, Proulx says. Because drug companies don’t make high profits from investing in veterinary treatments and government agencies are focused on human medicine, very little funding goes toward veterinary research. The exception is when animal model studies can be applied to human medicine — but even then, once trials have shown a medication to be effective in pets, drug companies don’t often make the product available for veterinarians to use. They simply move on to developing the drug to market for humans.

And when new treatments are available, they often come at a high cost — raising difficult questions for pet owners. Few have pet insurance, and those who do have policies may find that they have high deductibles or are reimbursed for only a small percentage of expensive procedures. In the face of lifesaving treatments that may cost upward of $10,000, even those who can afford to foot the bill may struggle with the question of how much their canine companion’s life is worth.

The proliferation of options is what is so exciting about the recent developments in veterinary medicine, Chretin says. “Now we can say, ‘Your dog has lymphoma.’ We can give standard treatment with medicine. Or we can do antibody therapy in addition to chemotherapy. Or we can go crazy with a [bone marrow] transplant. If it’s an older dog, or the owner doesn’t have enough money, we can go more conservative.”

Here is a glimpse into some treatments that have the potential to add high-quality years to your animal companions’ lives:

Bone marrow transplant

As far as cutting-edge treatments go, this is one of the most sophisticated available. Because it’s so specialized and expensive (about $20,000), it’s not very accessible to most pet owners. But it offers a potential cure for lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells. Chretin is one of the few veterinarians in the country who does bone marrow transplants. The procedure is exactly the same as that done in humans, he says. First, a dog is treated with a high dose of chemotherapy and a hormone that causes stem cells to release from the bone marrow into the bloodstream. A couple of weeks later, the dog is hooked up to a blood-separating machine that collects stem cells from the blood. The next day, the dog is treated with total-body radiation to wipe out all the white blood cells and, afterward, the harvested cells are infused back into the dog, where they will regenerate white blood cells in a, hopefully, cancer-free environment. The cure rate is about 40%.

CyberKnife radiation

Because radiation doesn’t distinguish between cancerous cells and normal cells, there is typically a limit to how much can be used without damaging healthy body tissues. CyberKnife is a system of robotic radiosurgery that delivers radiation so precisely that patients can tolerate a much higher dose with few side effects. While the machine takes continuous X-rays of a patient, a robotic arm delivers beamlets of radiation from 140 angles, all of which converge on the tumor with an accuracy of less than 1 millimeter. Because it is so precise, the veterinarian must know exactly where the tumor is located, says Proulx, who is one of only a handful of veterinarians in the world who are using CyberKnife in pets. “Not all pets and tumors are candidates, but we’ve certainly seen that in dogs with brain tumors we’ve been able to double the survival time.” The procedure costs approximately $12,000.

Stem cell therapy

Stem cell therapy is one facet of veterinary medicine that has been pioneered ahead of human medicine. Dr. Nicole Buote, chief of surgery at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, uses stem cells harvested from fat to help pets that suffer from arthritis, torn tendons and degenerative spinal problems. She harvests patients’ belly fat laparoscopically from a 2 centimeter incision, then sends the tissue off to VetStem, a company in San Diego, where it is processed with enzymes that separate fat cells from stem cells. VetStem banks some of the stem cells and sends the rest back to Buote. She can either inject the stem cells into a patient’s joint or administer them through an IV, where they travel through the bloodstream and home in on areas of inflammation. They work both mechanically and chemically, by rebuilding new tissue in damaged areas as well as shutting down chemical processes that cause damage. Though stem cell therapy in humans has recently come under the scrutiny of the FDA, several studies have shown that stem cells extracted from fat tissue are effective in relieving arthritis and torn tendons in dogs and horses.

“This is not magic — it’s not going to make a 10-year-old dog like a 1-year-old dog. But stem cells can stop inflammation in joints and can start to heal some of the tissues,” Buote says. The initial harvesting and treatment cost is $2,500, with subsequent injections every three to six months, at about $200 per treatment. (The stem cell banking fee is free the first year, then $150 annually.)

Melanoma vaccine

The melanoma vaccine is another area where veterinary medicine is ahead of human medicine — and one that may have future human applications. Melanoma, a cancer of the melanocytes (pigment-producing cells), is one of the most common cancers found in dogs. Unlike in people, in dogs it has nothing to do with sun exposure and is usually found in the mouth. Since the melanoma vaccine is not preventive, the name is a bit of a misnomer, Proulx says. Sold under the trade name Oncept, it’s used to lengthen survival time after a patient has undergone surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. The treatment is a form of immunotherapy, in which a strand of DNA that’s encoded for a protein normally found only on melanocytes is injected into a dog. The protein stimulates an increased immune response in the dog, tricking its immune system into attacking the cancerous melanocytes. Oncept costs about $2,800 for a series of four shots.

Hormonal implants

If regular veterinary medicine is behind human medicine in terms of technological advances, exotic animal medicine is medicine’s forgotten stepchild. There are very few research studies on exotic species, and those that are available are often limited to a single species. “A tortoise is not a snake, is not a lizard, is not a frog — and, even among one of those groups, they’re all different species, from different countries,” says Dr. Amy Wells, an exotic vet at the Avian and Exotic Clinic of Monterey. Plus, she adds, most pet owners are not willing to pay as much money to save the life of their iguana or parakeet as they would for their dog. So groundbreaking treatments in exotic animal medicine are a little less dramatic.

But one recent innovation has been able to span many species. Deslorelin is a contraceptive hormone that has been formulated into a sustained-release implant and is widely used as birth control in zoos. Only within the last couple of years has it become commercially available in the exotic pet market. The size of a rice grain, the implant is inserted beneath the skin with a wide-gauge needle. Over time the implant releases deslorelin, which acts on the pituitary gland to shut down the cascade of circulating reproductive hormones. Wells uses it to treat adrenal gland disease in ferrets, as well as to relieve parrots suffering from sexual frustration — often self-mutilating and becoming aggressive to their owners — when they are kept in captivity without a mate. She also frequently implants deslorelin in backyard chickens to prevent oviduct impaction — a life-threatening condition that occurs when eggs get backed up in the reproductive system and which costs about $1,000 to surgically repair. The implant costs $200 and lasts four to six months in a chicken; parrots should have a replacement implant yearly, ideally before the breeding season begins.

Article reposted from:
By Lily Dayton

Can the Right Kind of Vegetables Combat Cancer Cells?

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Cancers, be they in people or animals, are a terrible reality of life. Because cancers cause great suffering among both pets and humans, researchers are continually on the lookout for causes, preventions and cures.

How often are animals affected by cancer?

Unfortunately, cancer is a major killer among humans and animals alike. It’s the leading cause of death among older cats and dogs, and accounts for approximately 50% of deaths each year, says the Pet Cancer Center. The good news is cancer can be successfully treated if diagnosed early. Unfortunately, even with aggressive treatment recurrence is possible because the cancer stem cells are often resistant.

Does diet and nutrition play a role in the management of cancer?

Nutrition may play a role in the management of some cancers. The Pet Cancer Center says, “Proper Nutrition while undergoing cancer treatment is essential to maintain your pet’s strength, improve survival times, quality of life and maximize response to therapy.”  With over a hundred specific cancers, each behaving and responding differently, scientists are looking in some pretty surprising places for new, nutritional approaches that improve odds of success.

New compound may help prevent regrowth of cancer cells

Recent evidence indicates a compound that occurs naturally in certain vegetables (like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts) may help reduce the possibility of some cancers spreading. reports that associate professor, Moul Dey, of the South Dakota State University Department of Health and Nutritional Sciences, has been doing studies on something called phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) for five-years.

Professor Dey believes that through the process of chewing these vegetables, chemicals and enzymes are released that combine to form PEITC. She also believes that PEITIC plays a role in cancer prevention and control. However, it is not just a simple matter of eating some vegetables, but rather, eating lots of the right vegetables, consistently1. Dey’s studies have been designed to support her belief that sufficient cancer-preventing levels of PEITC can be achieved through diet alone.

How can PEITIC support current cancer treatments?

One important thing to understand about tumors is that only a small percentage of tumor cells are cancer cells (less than 5 percent1). While chemotherapy and radiation can make tumors disappear, these cancer cells live on. “These cells are frequently resistant to conventional therapies,” says Dey. They can regrow the tumor and move on to other parts of the body1.

It’s for this reason that PEITIC could be so important. Dey thinks she can use it to target these dangerous and elusive cancer cells.

What evidence supports the role of PEITC?

“When Dey and her team treated human cervical cancer stem cells with PEITC in a Petri dish, about 75 percent died within 24 hours,” says Newswire. Additionally, Dey and team, working with SDSU veterinary pathologist David Knudsen, found that even small amounts of PEITC can, “dramatically prevent the spread of cancer in mouse lung tissue.”

Still a long way to go

These studies are very exciting, but they are also all preliminary and even Dr. Dey cautioned that further testing is necessary.

Previous studies, and scientific literature, have indicated that the concentrations of PEITC Dey and her team typically use in their research, “May be achieved through diets rich in certain types of ‘cruciferous’ vegetables, particularly land and watercress1.” These ingredients do not constitute a part of typical pet foods, but maybe, as research progresses, they will.

[Editor’s Note: Do not add anything to your pet’s diet without first speaking to your veterinarian.]

I will definitely be keeping a close eye on this research.

Click here for 5 common questions and answers about cancer in dogs.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


  1. “Plant-Derived Compound Targets Cancer Stem Cells.” Newswire. South Dakota State University, 5 May 2015. Web. 22 May 2015.

Article reposted from:
By Dr. Mike Paul, DVM

The Journey Toward a Vaccine Against Melanoma in Dogs

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The drive to create a vaccine against melanoma, a serious cancer in dogs, has been going on for years with many successes and failures along the road. As May is pet cancer awareness month, let’s take a look at the history of a major development that is helping veterinarians to fight this disease in dogs.

A new melanoma treatment could help affected dogs live better and longer lives. (Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

Vaccine Refresher

You probably already know this, but just to recap, vaccines are given to both humans and pets to provide protection against an infectious disease, such as influenza or parvovirus. Many vaccines typically contain a portion of a disease-causing virus or bacteria (or sometimes a “safe” form of the entire organism). When the vaccine is administered, the immune system is stimulated to fight a particular disease. The vaccine teaches the immune system to make antibodies that will ideally destroy the virus or bacteria should the person or pet become exposed.

This method of sparking the immune system to fight off infectious disease inspired doctors to consider a similar approach to fighting cancer.

Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Cancer

Interest in using a cancer patient’s own immune system to fight cancer in the same way that vaccines help us to fight infectious disease is not new. Physicians in the late 1800’s occasionally noticed that tumors would regress when cancer patients developed a severe infection. That’s because the severe infection “ramped up” the patient’s immune system. Not only did the patient’s immune system control the infection in some cases, but as a side effect, the cancer briefly regressed as well. This led to unsuccessful attempts to cure cancer by inducing infections in cancer patients.

Modern efforts to harness a patient’s own immune system to treat melanoma, a serious cancer in dogs, began in the mid 1980’s. Veterinary researchers found that administering a bacterium, Corynebacterium parvum, to canine melanoma patients improved survival in some by activating the immune system against the bacteria and hitting the melanoma cells as collateral damage from the immune system activation. However, this method of immunotherapy has been largely abandoned in favor of treatments that more specifically target tumor cells themselves.

A different approach to melanoma immunotherapy that was developed about 10 years ago used a vaccine made from the patient’s own immune system. Immune system cells taken from a dog diagnosed with melanoma were mixed in a laboratory with melanoma cells and immune-stimulating compounds. This process helped “program” the immune system cells to attack the patient’s melanoma. However, this “personalized” vaccine was not very practical as the vaccine could only be produced one dog at a time. As a result, it remains a research tool rather than a clinical therapy.

Yet another experimental approach to treatment of melanoma in dogs requires genetic engineering. Genes essential for the production of white blood cells are inserted into melanoma cells grown in the laboratory. When these genetically engineered melanoma cells are injected into canine patients, the white blood cells mount an immune response against the dog’s melanoma and destroy it. Because the injected cells help to initiate an immune response, this is considered another form of vaccination, but it still has not reached the veterinary market.

As we can see, multiple approaches to developing a melanoma vaccine have been tried, but none of these personalized vaccines are in clinical use today. The fact that these vaccines have not reached the market says more about the difficulty of producing personalized vaccines on a large scale for veterinary patients than it does about the ability of personalized vaccines to control tumors, as some of them have been used as therapies in humans.

Wider Reaching Success: Treating Every Melanoma

The opposite of a personalized melanoma vaccine is a vaccine that is effective against every melanoma. In 2001, researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Animal Medical Center joined forces to develop such a vaccine for dogs suffering from melanoma. Melanoma is a tumor derived from pigment-producing cells. This vaccine targets tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in the production of pigment that is present in all melanoma cells. The vaccine causes an immune system attack on cells containing the tyrosinase enzyme. Since tyrosinase is limited to cells producing the pigment, the vaccine has limited impact on the patient but a big impact on melanoma cells. A clinical trial in dogs diagnosed with advanced melanoma and treated with the vaccine showed that they lived for more than 15 months compared to 5 months for dogs not treated with the vaccine. This vaccine is approved for use in dogs suffering from oral melanoma, although it may also work in other areas of the body where melanoma is occurring.

The long story of melanoma vaccine development shows the hard work and perseverance necessary to develop a new and successful cancer treatment. Fortunately, all this effort has resulted in a new treatment that, when added to traditional therapies of surgery and radiation, can help affected dogs live better and longer.

The immunotherapy approach to cancer treatment will likely be used to treat other cancers in the future. The challenge to cancer researchers is to identify the unique target on the cancer cells that will stimulate the immune system to eradicate the tumor without damaging any other cells. Or, in other words, to find ways to teach your “old” dog’s immune system new tricks!

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By Dr. Ann Hohenhaus |

Dogs, people team up to develop drug testing device

Monday, April 27th, 2015

A new device could speed the development of cancer drugs for both people and pets by allowing scientists to test multiple drugs within a living tumor.

The device, called CIVO™, looks like a pocket flashlight studded with needles. It delivers tiny doses of up to eight different cancer drugs or combinations, allowing doctors to study the effects of the drugs simultaneously and saving valuable research time.

Dr. Karelle Meleo, a board-certified veterinary oncologist with ACCES, a BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital, participated in the clinical trial to test the device and contributed to a study that was published in the May 2015 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Results of the published study show use of CIVO in canine patients demonstrated that microinjection of drugs is toxicity-sparing while inducing robust, easily tracked, drug-specific responses in naturally occurring tumors.
Researchers from Presage Biosciences, who developed the patented device and analysis technology, said the information gained from testing the device on dogs whose owners brought them to ACCES and other local veterinarians for cancer treatment was extremely valuable.

“Cells don’t behave the same in a dish as they do in the body,” said Meleo, who has published multiple scientific articles on veterinary oncology. “Being able to test this device in actual, living tumors is what made this study very exciting.”

After injecting the tumor with microscopic doses of the drugs, about 1/20th the size of a raindrop, the tumor was removed and analyzed to see which drug was most effective at killing cancer cells.
Testing tiny doses of multiple drugs at once not only saves time, it also decreases the risk of exposing patients to unnecessary side effects, Meleo said.

“When treating cancer, there are always going to be drugs that turn out to be a dead end,” said Meleo. “You’re risking toxicity from drugs that are never going to help you.”

While the device was developed for use in human medicine, it may also be a powerful tool in fighting cancer in dogs, Meleo said.

“There’s no reason that it can’t be used in veterinary medicine,” she added.

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