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

University of Guelph Helping Dogs with Bone Cancer Aim of Clinical Trial with U.S. Cancer Institute

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Newswise – “Everything ended.” That’s how Valeria Martinez describes her feelings the day she learned that her beloved Rottweiler, Cujo, had cancer.

A bump on Cujo’s leg was diagnosed as osteosarcoma, the same type of bone cancer that killed Canadian icon Terry Fox.

Martinez came to the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) for help. At OVC’s Mona Campbell Centre for Animal Cancer, she learned Cujo could receive treatment and take part in a new research collaboration intended to improve the quality of life for both dogs and people.

Valeria Martinez (right) with her dog, Cujo, and Prof. Paul Woods, Prof. Brigitte Brisson and Vicky Sabine from the Ontario Veterinary College. Image: University of Guelph

“We have more light now,” says Martinez, who lives in Barrie, Ont. “This gives us more options and more opportunity.”

Cujo is the first dog entered by OVC into a new clinical trial with the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (NCI COTC). It’s the first such collaboration between OVC and the NCI COTC, and is funded by the non-profit Morris Animal Foundation.

About 160 dogs from up to 20 American institutions and OVC will take part in the trial; OVC is the only Canadian partner. The trial is expected to last eight to 12 months.

Researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of the therapeutic agent rapamycin for treating osteosarcoma in dogs by delaying or preventing metastases.

“This is exciting for us,” says Paul Woods, a veterinary cancer specialist at OVC and co-director of U of G’s Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation.

“Osteosarcoma bone cancer is a common cancer in dogs, and common in teenagers like Terry Fox. Our goal is to improve the dogs’ quality and quantity of life while living with cancer.”

Dogs, especially large breeds, develop osteosarcoma 10 times as often as humans; OVC’s Animal Cancer Centre sees up to three new osteosarcoma cases each week.

“We’re not sure why it’s so common in large dogs,” Woods says.

Despite aggressive treatments such as limb amputation and chemotherapy, most dogs still die from metastatic disease, which usually appears in the lungs.

“Similar to what happened with Terry Fox, the cancer comes back in people and in dogs,” Woods says.

Rapamycin has been used in kidney transplant patients as an immunosuppressant, and, more recently, it’s being utilized as an anti-tumour agent, Woods says. Rapamycin inhibits a cellular pathway that is a critical regulator of cell growth, proliferation, metabolism and survival, he says.

“We are looking to see if rapamycin slows down or even prevents the metastases of osteosarcoma from coming back.”

The clinical trial will compare dogs receiving standard of care treatment alone (amputation and chemotherapy) with dogs receiving standard of care along with rapamycin.

Some of the costs for staging, surgery, chemotherapy and rapamycin are covered for dogs involved in the research trial.

As one of the dogs selected to receive standard of care therapy, Cujo has undergone surgery and is now receiving chemotherapy. Cujo will have regular physical exams and chest radiographs to monitor his health. Martinez will bring him to Guelph initially every three weeks for chemotherapy.

At first, she hesitated over the idea of surgery to remove her dog’s affected limb. “I thought: ‘How can he walk with three legs?’”

But Cujo was walking a week after the amputation. “He has no more pain, he can do everything.”

Woods says Terry Fox’s story resonates with many dog owners.

Diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma in 1977, Fox covered more than 5,000 kilometres in 1980 in his intended cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. He died in 1981 at age 22 after raising more than $24 million.

“Owners think to themselves ‘Terry Fox ran across Canada with this cancer. My dog can have a leg amputated, and still run across the yard with this cancer and have a good quality of life,’” Woods said.

It also gives people a sense of hope and purpose, he added.

“Since osteosarcoma looks and acts so similar in people and dogs – aggressive, highly metastatic disease— if we find better ways to treat dogs, it may help treat people as well.”

That’s comforting for Martinez and, she believes, for Cujo. “It’s good for learning and good for others for the future. If I had to do it again, I would do it.”

Article reposted from:
Source Newsroom: University of Guelph

Researchers Turn to Canine Clinical Trials to Advance Cancer Therapies

Friday, April 1st, 2016

About 6 million dogs are diagnosed with cancer each year, and more than half of dogs older than 10 years will develop cancers such as osteosarcoma, lymphoma, or melanoma ( But the heartbreaking diagnosis for dog owners is a treasure trove of potential data for oncology researchers. In clinical trials at academic research centers across the country, veterinarians and physicians are studying how pet dogs respond to cancer therapies and analyzing the genetic makeup of these tumors. Although medicine and veterinary medicine, for the most part, have been viewed as 2 different worlds, with little exchange of information between the two, that is beginning to change.

Karen Clifford/University of Missouri

“We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years in understanding what we know and don’t know about canine cancers to define the type of questions that can be efficiently answered within that model,” observed Amy K. LeBlanc, DVM, director of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI’s) Comparative Oncology Program (COP).

In recognition of the potential utility of canine cancer models, the NCI established COP in 2003 to promote comparative oncology research ( The NCI also created the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (COTC) to manage comparative oncology clinical trials conducted at a network of 20 academic veterinary medical centers ( And just last year, the National Academy of Medicine held a workshop on comparative oncology and issued a report addressing how to best integrate clinical trials of pets with naturally occurring cancers into human oncology research (

There’s even been interest in exploring tumor biology in nondomesticated animals such as elephants to better understand mechanisms of cancer suppression (Abegglen LM et al. JAMA. 2015;314[17]:1850-1860). The surge in comparative oncology research may be due to a convergence of factors, noted Will Eward, DVM, MD, an assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Duke University School of Medicine, who researches and treats sarcoma in both human and furry, four-legged canine patients.

“I don’t know if as pet insurance becomes more common, more people are seeking high-end treatment [for pets], or if we’ve reached a critical mass of researchers who are looking at humans and other species,” said Eward.

Advantages Over Mouse Models:

Traditionally, the development of new cancer therapies has followed the 3-step process: laboratory studies, mouse models, and human clinical trials. However, that model doesn’t always work well. Only 11% of oncology drugs that appear promising in mouse models turn out to be safe and effective, according to the National Academy of Medicine workshop report.

“The track record for the current way we progress [in drug development] from the laboratory to the clinic is pretty lousy,” said Neil Spector, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine who serves on the Consortium for Comparative Canine Oncology steering committee. “Any other industry that had a [low] rate of success would be pretty unacceptable… something different has to be done.”

The high failure rate may be due to the stark difference between a laboratory mouse and a human, Eward explained. The study mice may be genetically engineered or have compromised immune systems. They live in sterile laboratories, unlike people who are constantly exposed to pollution, bacteria, UV light, and other environmental factors. Their tumors are homogenous, unlike the heterogeneous tumors that people develop.

With domesticated pet dogs, however, “they live in the same environments and are exposed to the same carcinogens,” said Eward. “When you look at naturally occurring cancers [in dogs], we see the same risk factors, the same things associated with [tumor] growth and development.”

“A great example is sarcoma,” Eward said. “It occurs in the lower part of the femur and the upper part of the tibia, and it occurs in the same place in dogs. Kids at risk are tall, rapidly growing kids. You see the same things in dogs. You’re more likely to get it if you’re a Great Dane or an Irish Wolfhound than a Chihuahua.”

Yet at the same time, certain differences between dogs and humans also make them ideal clinical trial subjects. Dogs have a much shorter life span, so their cancers progress more rapidly, enabling researchers to assess the cancer’s progress and the effect of a treatment in a year or two, whereas a human clinical trial might take years longer.

What’s more, pet owners are usually eager to enroll their dogs in clinical trials because available therapies may be limited and expensive and such trials offer free hope for their beloved companions. The pet owners’ enthusiasm translates into a dedicated adherence to the requirements of the study and doing whatever they can to help the researchers.

“The compliance rates are phenomenal,” said David Vail, DVM, chair of veterinary oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, which is part of the COTC network. “The autopsy rates [on dogs who die] are 80% plus, and that is virtually unheard of [in human patients].”

Valuable Data:

Canine clinical trials in progress or completed are already demonstrating the value of comparative oncology.

For example, noted LeBlanc, a canine clinical trial of the immunocytokine NHS-IL12 as a therapy for treating dogs with melanoma yielded useful information on the drug’s safety and efficacy (Paoloni M et al.PLoS One. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129954 [published online June 19, 2015]). The data on the drug’s efficacy were key to the study sponsor’s decision to go ahead with a phase 1 clinical trial, she said.

“That data helped support an investigational drug application for a [human] clinical trial that is going on at [National Institutes of Health],” LeBlanc said. “The principal investigator commented how helpful it was to have the dog data.”

And at the University of Wisconsin, the veterinary school is participating in a COTC trial of rapamycin to treat pet dogs with osteosarcoma, which affects about 8000 canines and 800 children each year. The clinical trial, which is studying the dosing and scheduling of the drug, should be completed within 2 years, with another year needed to analyze the data, Vail said. Another independent study found that the protein BMI1, which has been implicated in human tumor growth and chemoresistance, may play a similar role in canine primary and metastatic osteosarcoma, suggesting canine models could be used to test the therapeutic potential of BMI1 inhibitors (Shahi MH et al. PLoS One. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131006 [published online June 25, 2015]).

Researchers at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine are planning to study whether a combination of 2 new promising drugs is more effective in treating lymphoma in dogs than each drug alone. Such a clinical trial in humans is currently impossible because neither drug has been thoroughly studied individually, said Kristy Richards, MD, PhD, an associate professor of oncology at Weill Cornell Medical College and an associate professor of biomedical sciences at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, who leads the research.

“With the dogs, we can say ‘We think the combination will be best’ and go forward [to human trials] with that,” said Richards, who prefers not to name the drugs until the trial begins.

As an oncologist, Richards said she is sometimes asked why she’s conducting research on dogs. Her response: the results of canine studies may help facilitate the development of treatments for humans.

“I love the fact that the [dog] subjects benefit from the research, but my primary motivation is that I want to cure people with lymphoma,” said Richards. “[With dogs] they relapse faster, the kinetics of their disease are faster, we can take biopsies easier.”

“We have all these potential study subjects sitting there… why not use that to help speed things up?” she added.

Researchers are also looking at genetic data to help pinpoint mutations most likely to cause certain types of cancer. The canine genome, which was sequenced in 2005, has provided a foundation for future research on the genetic underpinnings of diseases also common in humans (Lindblad-Toh K et al. Nature. 2005;438:803-819). Due to selective breeding of dogs over the centuries, many purebreds are susceptible to specific diseases that can be linked back to inheritable germline mutations. Given the large number of breeds and their shared ancestry, inheritable germline mutations associated with complex diseases such as cancer are easier to identify in purebred dogs than in human populations (

At Duke, for example, Eward and his research team have been doing genetic sequencing on human and canine osteosarcoma tumors and comparing the somatic, or nonheritable, genetic mutations common to both.

“That number of 5 genes that are common to osteosarcoma in dogs and humans matters because if you have a huge number [of mutations in] like 3000 genes, it’s kind of hard to figure out which of the 3000 genes to study. If you boil it down to 5 genes, it’s a much more reasonable thing to study,” said Eward, who noted that the research has not yet been published.

Richards and her team are taking a similar approach, sequencing tumors from 100 dogs with lymphoma to compare both germline and somatic genetic mutations in these tumors with those found in human lymphoma tumors. Their work builds on an earlier study by other researchers that found somatic mutations in the gene TRAF3 in about 30% of canine lymphoma and TRAF3 deletions in about 9% of human diffuse large B-cell lymphoma tumors (Bushell KR et al. Blood. 2015;125[6]:999-1005).

“The germline mutations will help us learn more about the biology of cancer predisposition and oncogenesis, and the somatic mutations, especially the ones in shared pathways, will help us learn more about cancer formation and progression but also provide good therapeutic targets,” said Richards.

The team will also compare human and canine clinical data such as disease stage, tumor phenotype, and progression-free survival, she said.

Limitations To Canine Trials:

Like any clinical trial model, canine trials are not a cure-all to speed new treatments.

“It’s never been our position that the dog should be in every single drug development [process],” said LeBlanc. “It’s irresponsible to believe that the dog will solve all the drug development problems.”

One limitation is dogs’ size: they’re larger than mice and require larger drug doses, which increases a trial’s cost. Canine clinical trials also take longer than mouse model trials.

In addition, pharmaceutical companies may be reluctant to sponsor a canine clinical trial, fearing that an adverse effect that occurs in a dog might derail clinical trials in humans, Richards noted.

Furthermore, some cancers common in humans, such as breast cancer, are rare in dogs. Still, Vail noted, comparative oncology research may unearth common features between unrelated cancers in humans and dogs, pointing to possible paths for further research. For example, mast cell cancer, a common tumor in dogs, is rare in humans. However, identical receptor tyrosine kinase signaling pathways have been implicated in the growth of mast cell tumors in dogs and gastrointestinal stromal tumors in humans, thus identifying a potential therapeutic target common to both cancers, explained Vail.

“The drug target can trump the tumor type,” said Vail.

According to researchers, perhaps the biggest hurdle to canine clinical trials is that many physicians and researchers are still not aware of the wealth of clinical data to be mined from the millions of dogs who develop cancer each year.

“We would love to see better treatments for our pets,” said Spector, who had to have his own dog euthanized because of a metastatic mast cell tumor. “Can we not only improve the cutting-edge therapies for veterinary patients, but then take the lessons learned and create much more efficient therapies for humans? It really is a win-win for everyone.”

Article reposted from:
By Julie A. Jacob, MA

New Groundbreaking Canine Cancer Vaccine Shows Promise

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Our dogs become part of family as soon as they enter our home. We always know that we will outlive them, but we still cannot picture our family without them. Losing a canine companion is hard enough after they’ve lived a long and happy life with your family, but when that time is cut short due to a terminal illness it’s even harder to bear.

A recently released experimental drug has goals of helping canines with cancer live longer. Researchers are even saying that the pharmaceutical may benefit human children in the future. One dog taking part in the study of the new drug is Harley, a 10 year old golden retriever with osteosarcoma.

Photo: Ann

Dogs with osteosarcoma, a painful cancerous tumor that grows in the bones, usually only live for about 5 months after diagnosis. Harley doesn’t move quite as quickly as he did before, but he’s still here and that’s all that matters to his owners. They are very pleased with the results of the drug and they are grateful for the opportunity to take part in the study.

Harley has lived more than one year longer than veterinarians expected him to. The vaccine kills osteosarcoma cancer cells that live through chemotherapy. It contains genetically modified bacteria called Listeria. Harley, and other dogs undergoing the experimental treatment, go through palliative chemotherapy and then have eight doses of Listeria given to them over the course of 24 weeks.

Basically, scientists believe that the bacteria will stimulate the dog’s immune system to kill the bacteria along with the leftover cancer cells. Nicola Mason, PhD, is a veterinarian with the University of Pennsylvania who is working on the study. Dr. Mason says that dogs using the new canine cancer vaccine are living anywhere from 2 to 5 times longer than the typically life expectancy for dogs in their condition.

What’s even more thrilling is that researchers believe they will be able to use this research to help children with cancer. Dogs and humans actually share many biological similarities, and we both develop cancer naturally – as opposed to lab mice who must be implanted with the disease.

That’s why experts believe that the same vaccine that is helping dogs like Harley may also be able to help children diagnosed with the same type of cancer. Dr. Mason says that if you take a bone tumor out of a dog and compare it to the same type of tumor taken from a child you would never be able to tell the difference.

Researchers are currently in the works of developing a protocol for a clinical trial that they will have to present to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). They are hoping that the FDA will approve the trials and they’ll begin by the end of this year.

Harley’s owner, Bob Fatscher, is happy that Harley was able to take part in this study. He says that someday a child may be alive thanks to the research performed on Harley and his canine comrades. Hopefully it will be helping other dogs diagnosed with the disease in the future as well.

Sadly, more than 10,000 dogs are diagnosed with osteosarcoma every year. According to The Veterinary Caner Center, about 50% of all disease-related pet deaths are caused by cancer each year. It’s been shown that dog’s develop cancer at roughly the same rate as humans.

Many experts in the pet industry believe that the growing rate of canine cancers has a lot to do with commercial dog food and the products that we are using on our pets. Many commercial diets are filled with artificial colors and ingredients as well as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We’re using products that are made with toxic chemicals too, and these chemicals can leach into your pet’s system very easily.

Be smart about the products that you select for your dog. Look for healthy and safe products. Try to purchase organic and all-natural products whenever you can. The less chemicals and toxins your dog is exposed to, the less risk he has of developing certain types of cancers.

Article reposted from:
By Samantha Randall

Greenwich couple mourns loss of golden retriever Chase

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

In the past nine months, Bill and Barbara Gorgas have lost their beloved golden retrievers, brothers Clancy and Chase. But the couple doesn’t regret for a minute their somewhat unlikely decision to adopt the dogs.

Thirteen-year-old Chase died March 1 after a battle with cancer, four months after his diagnosis in late October.

“It was a four-month gift,” said Bill Gorgas.

The loss of Chase follows the June 2015 death of 9-year-old Clancy. Both were stricken by the same type of cancer, Hemangiosarcoma, a tumor that starts in the liver and spleen and then quickly spreads through the blood vessels.

Barbara and Bill Gorgas pose for a 2014 portrait with their golden retrievers Clancy, left, and Chase. The dogs, brothers, were formerly owned by Monsignor Frank Wissel of St. Mary Parish.

The Gorgases had never owned dogs until they read in a 2014 Greenwich Time article that the pair needed a home. Clancy’s and Chase’s then-owner, the late Rev. Frank Wissel of St. Mary Parish on Greenwich Avenue, was retiring and moving into the Nathaniel Witherell nursing home, which could not take the dogs.

Bill and Barbara Gorgas were intrigued about the prospect of welcoming two older golden retrievers into their home.

The brothers immediately became part of the family. The Gorgases spent hours with them every day, taking them on walks around town — the dogs were frequently recognized from their daily jaunts around the church’s front lawn — and on trips to their summer home in Stone Harbor, N.J.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about those dogs,” said Bill Gorgas. “They were such a huge part of our lives. We don’t have children, so these dogs were like our children. We gave them constant attention.”

Terry Blevin, the St. Mary parishioner who organized the Gorgases’ adoption of the dogs, said she thinks the retrievers would not have lived as long as they did if they were not taken in by the Gorgases.

“They gave Chase and Clancy an incredible last chapter of their lives,” Blevin said. “They took such good care of them. They always kept them groomed, and they were out like clockwork walking those dogs. Those dogs were so happy because they were showered with love and attention.”

Chase continued his regular walks after his diagnosis. He accompanied Barbara Gorgas to her Greenwich office each day and maintained his regular diet.

“The gift is that he led a high-quality life until the end. Chase really came into his own in the last few months,” said Bill Gorgas. “You could see his personality change. He became much more playful. And it became apparent he loved other dogs, too. Clancy loved him, but he was very protective of him around other dogs. Chase became a totally different dog.”

Clancy and Chase already have a legacy. Following the death of Clancy, the Gorgases last fall started ClancysCure, an endowment for canine cancer research at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs 10 and older. Half of older dogs develop the disease and about one in four dogs eventually dies from it, according to recent studies cited on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website.

“The mission has become even more critical after losing Chase,” said Bill Gorgas. “The number of dogs that are dying from this disease is staggering and unacceptable.”

Bill Gorgas said that he and his wife do not want to get another dog while they are still grieving the loss of Chase. But he foresees them eventually taking in another canine duo.

“I’m sure at some point we’ll have dogs again, and they’ll be goldens,” said Bill Gorgas. “As painful as it is to lose them, I’d absolutely do it again and decide to adopt them. They gave us an incredible gift. I really do think they made us better people.”

Story reposted from:
By Paul Schott

A New Vaccine May Help Treat Lymphoma in Dogs

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

When I was in my final, clinical year of veterinary school, I rotated through the oncology department. My first oncology patient was a Golden Retriever. Several days before coming to the Davis teaching hospital, the owner had noticed that the dog had developed several lumps. The dog had gone to his family veterinarian, who identified lumps at the base of his jaw, in front of his shoulders, and behind his knees. The lumps were enlarged lymph nodes.

The family vet performed a procedure called fine needle aspiration. It is a diagnostic technique that involves inserting a small needle into a suspicious mass in order to harvest cells from it. The cells are expressed onto a microscope slide and evaluated. It is similar to a biopsy, but quicker, simpler, and less invasive. It yielded a diagnosis: lymphoma.

Lymphoma is the most common cancer in both dogs and cats. It is a cancer of the immune system, which usually disseminates through the body. Enlarged lymph nodes often are the first sign.

The attending clinician and I evaluated the 8-year-old dog. He was happy and friendly. He clearly was well cared for. His physical exam showed no irregularities aside from the enlarged lymph nodes. The dog felt completely healthy and was not showing any signs of illness.

The clinician asked me a basic question. Without treatment, what was the dog’s life expectancy? I should have known the answer, but I didn’t. I ventured a guess: six months, or maybe a year?

I was wrong, and the clinician’s response floored me. That dog, who looked and felt fine, would be dead in one to two months without treatment. Many types of lymphoma progress to terminal stages in a very short time.

The news wasn’t all bad, however. Most types of lymphoma in dogs are very responsive to chemotherapy. A large majority of cases will go into remission, and with chemo the dog’s life expectancy was approximately a year. What’s more, dogs do not often experience the horrible side effects of chemo that make it so dreaded in people, who often feel that chemo is worse than the cancer it is treating. The dog got his first dose of chemo that day.

Chemotherapy is quite effective against lymphoma, but it certainly isn’t elegant. Chemo drugs generally are toxic to all types of cells in the body, not just cancer cells. Most types of chemo kill any cells that divide rapidly. Cancer cells usually are rapid dividers. So are cells in the intestines and cells that cause human hair to grow, which is why people on chemo have GI problems and lose their hair. Fortunately, as I mentioned, most dogs on chemo do not lose their hair or become sick.

I have often wondered, in this era of DNA testing, genome projects, and exploding knowledge and understanding of cancer, why greater strides haven’t been made in the treatment of this dreaded disease. It appears now that we may be on the brink of a sea change.

Merial, a large pharmaceutical company, recently announced the release of a vaccine for treatment of one type of lymphoma, called B cell lymphoma, in dogs.

To be clear, the vaccine will be used to treat lymphoma, not to prevent it. The new lymphoma vaccine will not become a part of puppy shots or routine veterinary visits. In fact, regular veterinarians will not have access to the vaccine at first. It will be available only through specialists in oncology.

The vaccine also will not replace chemotherapy for the treatment of canine lymphoma. Dogs diagnosed with the disease will still need to go through chemotherapy in order to achieve remission of the cancer. Once that has happened, the vaccine can be administered. Early results of studies indicate that the vaccine has potential to significantly increase life expectancy and survival times for dogs with this common and deadly form of cancer.

The concept of a vaccine that treats cancer is not entirely new. For several years, there has been a vaccine that is used as part of treatment protocols for some dogs with melanoma. However, melanoma is not common in dogs, so that vaccine hasn’t really shaken up the world of veterinary medicine. Lymphoma is common. I have seen hundreds of dogs die from it. The lymphoma vaccine has the potential to really change the game for large numbers of dogs.

The vaccine works by stimulating the immune system to create antibodies to a protein called CD20 that is found on B cells, leading to the cells’ destruction.

The key thing is that the cancer needs to be in remission for the vaccine to work. Remission is most likely to happen if the cancer is caught early. If you find strange new lumps under your dog’s skin, they should be checked by your vet immediately. Your dog’s chances will be best if you act fast.

Article reposted from:
Dr. Eric Barchas

Palliative Radiation Therapy for Canine Cancer Has A 75 Percent Response Rate

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Dogs who are diagnosed with cancer have the very limited options to be treated and cured. Fortunately, many veterinarians are considering the option of palliative radiation therapy to maximize the amount of time the dog has left in comfort.

Tumors may cause great pain in a dog’s relatively small body as they may also physically block a body part from functioning. In some cases, tumors may bleed and drastically reduce a dog’s quality of life.

Fortunately, palliative radiation therapy (PRT) can help eliminate and reduce the mentioned symptoms. Radiation therapy may be used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy for the permanent death or control of a tumor.

The goal of PRT is not to eliminate the tumor but the reduce the adverse effects the tumor will have on a dog’s body. While the tumor may not be completely destroyed, shrinking the tumor may improve the quality of life of the animal by reducing bleeding, pressure or pain.

Radiation affects both normal and cancer cells but it is designed to produce maximum effect on the tumor and minimize the effects on normal tissue, according to Pet Education. Unfortunately, not enough data has been found to properly identify just how well PRT can work as only a few owners are able to commit to the time and expense of the treatment.

Fortunately, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association sought to conclude the effectiveness of PRT. The researchers observed the medical records of dogs that received the treatment at the University of Pennsylvania Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital from July 2007 to January 2011.

With 103 dogs taking part in the study, the overall response rate of PRT was at 75 percent. The response rate, however, varied among the different tumor types that range from 50 percent to 100 percent.

The study revealed that for dogs that have an anal sac adenocarcinoma type of tumor, the overall response rate is at 100 percent. For transitional cell carcinoma, however, the response rate is at a mere 16 percent.

Oral tumors and tumors within the nasal cavity typical respond positively to radiation therapy. Brain tumors, skin tumors, lymphoma and even mast cell tumors have also responded well to the mentioned treatment especially when used together with chemotherapy.

PRT is typically given in large fractions once a week for three weeks. The researchers also concluded that a normal dog would survive for almost nine months to a year and a half after the treatment, according to Pet MD.

Article reposted from:
By Diane Ting

How Dogs Are Helping in the Fight Against Cancer

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Dogs help humans in countless ways. Specially trained dogs work side-by-side with police officers, firefighters and military personnel. They also help humans with physical, mental and emotional disabilities, and now we know how dogs are helping in the fight against cancer.

Cancer is a devastating disease that effects virtually everyone in one way or another. If you haven’t been diagnosed with the disease, there is a good chance that someone close to you has been – maybe even your beloved pet. Cancer is not a human-specific disease. It effects dogs in much the same way as people.

Photo: liz west

Dogs are actually helping in the fight against cancer in multiple ways. We’re learning a lot from studying canine cancers, specially trained dogs can now sniff out cancer in humans and therapy dogs are even helping to improve the lives of humans who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Canine cancer studies

Interest in comparative oncology – the study of cancer across all species – has been growing steadily in recent years, and a lot of the research is being done on dogs. Since a dog’s lifespan is much shorter than a human’s, clinical trials performed on canines could shave years off the research process and make the process much less expensive.

Back in 2005, preliminary mapping of the canine genome was completed. This was a HUGE advancement in veterinary medicine. Dogs diagnosed with cancer now receive many of the same treatments as humans including radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. A canine melanoma vaccine is on the market now thanks to this research, and many other melanoma vaccines are also in the works.

Scientists are also working on connecting the links between tumor markers shared by humans and dogs. They are also trying to find the genes that cause certain breeds to be more susceptible to certain types of cancer. This research could eventually lead to insights about why some human cancers are passed genetically through families.

Research being performed in canine clinical trials is giving scientists clues about cancer’s development and possible treatments. Cancer research is also performed on mice, but mice don’t develop the disease naturally; it has to be induced. Therefore, observing the development and progression of cancer in dogs is much similar to the way the disease behaves in humans and in turn more beneficial in the comparative oncology field.

Cancer sniffing canines

It may sound silly, but in case you haven’t heard, dogs can smell cancer in humans. Dogs can smell in parts per trillion. Now, I know that probably doesn’t mean much to you, so let me explain it this way. One cc, which is less than one drop, of blood could be diluted in the amount of water that it takes to fill 20 olympic-sized swimming pools and a dog could still detect the blood!

It sounds crazy, but many oncologists say that they can tell when a patient has stage 3-4 cancer, because they can smell it on the person’s breath. Whether that is the case or not, cancer most definitely has a unique smell and some experts have trained dogs to identify it.

Some dogs can identify cancer in a patient when it is at stage 0, meaning it isn’t even detectable by modern medicine yet.

There are studies that prove that dogs can detect cancer through scent. Researchers are currently trying to use this information to create a breathalyzer that can detect cancer as early as a dog’s nose can. So far, the canines are in the lead.

Service dogs helping humans diagnosed with cancer

Understanding how dogs are helping in the fight against cancer isn’t as simple as what they are contributing to the medical field. There are trained therapy and service dogs helping cancer patients around the world every day. That may quite possibly be their most significant contribution to the battle.

Of course any dog lover will tell you that the emotional support they get from a dog can usually beat the support received by humans. Dogs do not judge us. We have no reason to feel self-conscious around them. They are absolutely the best support for a person struggling with a terminal diagnosis.

The support provided by our canine companions provides:

  • relaxation
  • a feeling of safety
  • socialization
  • distraction
  • a tactile sensation (the feeling of petting a dog releases endorphins that lower stress and improve your mood)

Service dogs can also be a helping hand to patients trying to become more independent why recovering from cancer treatments or surgery. They can assist patients feeling weak who may need help walking or standing. Service dogs can carry packages, groceries or other objects, and they can also turn on lights and open doors.

This kind of help can be pivotal in a cancer patient’s recovery process. Studies have been done to prove that dogs can benefit humans going through treatment for cancer. Whether they are offering physical help or emotional help, it’s safe to say that having a dog around would make a big impact on the well-being of a cancer patient.

From helping us learn about the disease itself to physically providing aid to those struggling with treatment, man’s best friend is trying to help us battle this terrible illness. Understanding how dogs are helping in the fight against cancer is an ongoing process. New research is being done everyday, and we’re sure to see new canine-related breakthroughs in the future.

Article reposted from:
By Samantha Randall

3rd Annual Gulliver's Run Once again Runs Over Canine Cancer

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

For the 3rd year the National Canine Cancer Foundation has had the pleasure of partnering up on the Gulliver’s Run, helping raise awareness, provide outreach and research dollars for canine cancer treatments and cures. Annually this event grows and breaks new boundaries raising over $15,500 in 2015 alone! If you are a runner or a dog lover in the Central PA area, then be sure to register at and put the 2016 Gulliver’s Run on your “must run” list!

Hello everyone, it’s hard to believe that three months have passed since the 3rd Annual “Gulliver’s Run” took place in beautiful Gifford Pinchot State Park here in Central Pennsylvania. The trails are now covered in deep snowpack, just trying to navigate them (let alone run on them) is a challenge for both dogs and people.

But the snow will melt, the seasons will change, and we’ll be back for the 4th Annual “Gulliver’s Run” on Sunday, November 6th 2016!

Our supporters are growing, the numbers are increasing, and the word is spreading that “Gulliver’s Run” is a quality event for a great cause! We can only thank everyone who has helped us and believed in us for that.

Canine cancer has not slowed down, so why should we? Each year we continue to meet others who have been impacted by the loss of a dear friend to this insidious disease. And each year we meet more and more people who look forward to the simple joy of being able to spend time with a canine companion.

So we will continue to put our time, energy, resources, and most importantly, our hearts into making “Gulliver’s Run” a positive, fun, and memorable way for others to help in the fight against canine cancer.

Join us on November 6th 2016 for the 4th Annual “Gulliver’s Run”. Make your dog proud of you and your part in this mission.

Together—We are the cure!
John & Lisa

Photo courtesy: NaterPix

Dogs Accelerate the Advance of New Cancer Treatments for Both Pets And People

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

A Science Translational Medicine review suggests integrating dogs with naturally occurring cancers into studies of new drug therapeutics could result in better treatments for our four-legged friends while helping inform therapeutic development for human cancers.

The review, conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Science, including faculty at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), hopes to close the gap between human and canine cancer research, and accelerate the knowledge developed by studying cancer in both people and pets, a field known as comparative oncology.

“We are hopeful this analysis will be useful in developing and advancing an agenda for the field of comparative oncology,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director, and one of the authors of the study. “Many canine breeds develop naturally occurring cancers, such as breast cancer and melanoma, that share remarkable genetic similarities with their human equivalent. This allows us a unique opportunity to have what we learn in the human be of help to the dog, and what we learn in the dog to be of direct help to human patients with these cancers.”

Dr. William Hendricks, an Assistant Professor at TGen specializing in canine research, agreed: “It has been remarkable to see first hand the similarity in genetic changes, called mutations, between a dog with melanoma and a human patient with the same disease. Looking through the lens of genetics is giving us new targets and offering new hope for improving our treatment of humans and dogs.”

This “gap analysis” is the result of a National Academies Institute of Medicine workshop — The role of Clinical Studies for Pets with Naturally Occurring Tumors in Translational Cancer Research — held June 8-9, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

“Low cancer drug development success rates and the associated high attrition rates of new drugs, particularly late in human clinical trials, are indicative of a key shortcoming in the preclinical development path,” said Dr. Chand Khanna, a former Senior Scientist at NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, who holds both a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a Ph.D. in Pathobiology, an interdisciplinary field devoted to basic research into the mechanisms of disease.

“Strong similarities between the biology of cancer in dogs and humans have been shown, including patterns of response to therapies and cancer recurrence,” said Dr. Khanna, the review’s senior author. “Specific types of cancer are functionally identical between dogs and humans, and in some cases the cancers can be considered indistinguishable between the species.”

Findings the authors report include:

  • A limited understanding of the filed of comparative oncology in the cancer drug development community.
  • The value of comparative oncology can be seen not only in accelerating drug development and eventual FDA approval, but also in saving time, costs and risks to patients by providing early assessments of clinical trials that should be discontinued.
  • Studying canines to answer questions about drug target biology — before and after exposure to novel treatments — should be a priority.
  • Comparative oncology also should prioritize the development and validation of biomarkers in circulating blood, and guide decisions about optimal drug combination strategies.
  • There is a need to include veterinarians in clinical practice and in the pharmaceutical industry, physician and veterinary medical associations, and aligned philanthropic groups, in the discussion of opportunities presented by comparative oncology.
  • Tissue samples of canine cancers stored in tissue banks and bio-specimen repositories “should now be leveraged in order to rapidly accelerate comparative oncology.”

Importantly, this review found that the knowledge of genetic alterations that drive human cancers far exceeds knowledge of those same alterations in canine cancers. More than 30,000 human cancers have been genomically profiled, while genomic sequencing data has been published for fewer than 50 canine cancers.

“Our understanding of the genomic landscape of canine cancer is widely considered to be the single largest gap currently present in comparative oncology today,” said Dr. Amy LeBlanc, Director of the Comparative Oncology Program at NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, and the review’s lead author.

Other recommendations included in the review: Veterinary schools are best positioned and prepared to successfully recruit and manage canine patients for comparative oncology studies; the successes in immunotherapy in human cancer treatments should be extended to canine clinical trials; and a centralized registry of canine clinical trials should be created, providing easy access for pet owners and veterinarians.

Article reposted from:
Released by The Translational Genomics Research Institute