Letter from Dean
May 30, 2009
Exciting discoveries are occurring every day at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and I’d like to tell you about one of the most far-reaching that has resulted from our research. In fact, you may have already heard about it.
In August 2008, Batman, a pointy-eared German shepherd mixed-breed dog, with a fatal form of brain cancer underwent a breakthrough, life-saving procedure developed by University of Minnesota surgeons and scientists at the College of Veterinary Medicine and School of Medicine. Without this novel procedure, chances are Batman would not have lived past Halloween. Today, he is still a tail-wagging companion, full of energy and with no sign of tumor recurrence.
What’s even more exhilarating, though, is that this treatment is now available on a clinical trial basis to other dogs with brain cancer. If the results of these clinical trials are as promising as we suspect, the revolutionary new treatment protocol may one day be used to treat other types of cancer in dogs. It could even be tested in human trials in the near future with the ultimate goal of curing brain cancers in people like Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.
Most of the credit for this new treatment procedure goes to G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. Their revolutionary three-pronged approach to treatment consists of: surgically removing the tumor; treating the surgical site with a form of gene therapy to attract immune cells that will recognize and destroy remaining tumor cells; and administering an anti-cancer vaccine made from the dog’s own cancer cells to prevent the tumor from recurring.
To date, five dogs have received the treatment with promising results, and we are now formally opening the clinical trials to other dogs with primary brain tumors. Treatment will occur through the canine brain tumor clinical trials program. The trial team currently has funding to treat up to 50 dogs but that number could soon exceed 100 if additional grants and charitable donations come through.
With this in mind I am asking your help in referring canine patients that you think could benefit from this program. I have attached a PDF flyer with information about the program (if you scroll down, you’ll see it). Please print it out and share it with pet owners whose dogs may benefit from this effort while helping our study. For your review you will also find background information and media stories that have been written about Batman and a link to our Web site where you or any referring veterinarian can submit a request to enroll a dog in this study.
Treatment is expensive; the cost of therapy for one dog can reach $20,000. The canine brain tumor clinical trials program, however, will cover the vast majority of treatment costs while a dog remains in a trial. Owners are responsible only for diagnostic tests and even these can be waived under specific circumstances.
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.
Learn more about the trials online at www.cvm.umn.edu. To enroll a dog in a trial, call the Small Animal Surgery appointment line at 612-625-8755 or 612-626-8387 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pluhar or visit our Web site at www.cvm.umn.edu/. To donate to the research effort, click here and select “new gift” then designate the gift is for the “CVM canine brain tumor clinical trials” effort. Or you can contact Sharon Staton, director of advancement, at 612-624-1247, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To enroll a dog in a trial, call the Small Animal Surgery appointment line at 612-625-8755 or 612-626-8387 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pluhar or visit our Web site at www.cvm.umn.edu.
Trevor Ames D.V.M., M.S.