MILWAUKIE, Ore. — A procedure used to treat bone cancer on a Portland family’s dog last month may eventually be applied to human cancer patients.
Melissa Dauvalt said she became concerned when she spotted a lump on the leg of her St. Bernard named Juno. As a veterinarian, Dauvalt said she knew she had to act quickly to take care of what she feared to be cancer.
Tests confirmed the lump to be a potentially fatal tumor. If a dog doesn’t die from such a tumor, it often requires amputation of the infected leg.
But Dauvalt soon learned about a new procedure helping fight the cancer directly at its source. The treatment is part of a preclinical study at Texas A&M University.
“That tumor is common in dogs. There’s about 8,000 cases a year and it’s highly fatal,” said Dr. Terry Fossum, the director of the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies.
After a precise CT scan, surgeons were able to locate the spot affected by the bone cancer in Juno’s leg. Surgeons then drilled into the bone and injected a liquid radiation into the tumor itself on March 12.
Fossum said that focused on killing the tumor without affecting other areas of the body.
Juno is now undergoing chemotherapy for the next several months. In five months, the dog will receive a full CT scan to check to see if the tumor is completely gone.
“One of the great things about dogs as a model for the human’s disease is that that cancers they get are oftentimes identical,” Fossum said.
Use of the treatment on humans is still years down the line. Several more studies on animals are required before the treatment can be presented to the FDA for consideration.
“Our hope is not only we will save the lives of dogs like Juno, but we’ll develop a new treatment that can be used in people as well,” Fossum said.