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.
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 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.