Updated: Jan 25
For dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma, even with surgery and chemotherapy, the median survival is typically less than 12 months. Cancer often ends up spreading, and we desperately need better ways to combat this disease.
Much research is needed to figure out how to prevent metastasis after surgery and chemotherapy.
Or better yet, we need a therapy that lets the dog keep his leg, avoid chemotherapy, and be cured. After all, many dogs are not a candidate for surgery for various reasons.
Now, it’s been known for decades that the dog’s immune system could play a major role in combating osteosarcoma and other forms of malignant sarcomas.
For example, vets have reported that canine osteosarcoma patients who experienced post-surgery infection (and activation of the immune system) enjoyed longer survival times.
And there is well known historical record left by Dr. William Coley. Over a century ago, this surgeon successfully treated many of his end-stage (human) sarcoma patients using a mix of bacteria that boosted the patient's immune system.
What makes immunotherapy particularly attractive is that it gives some patients a chance at long-term survival compared to conventional treatments like chemotherapy.
At a recent scientific presentation, University of Pennsylvania Professor Dr. Nicki Mason - one of the leaders in veterinary cancer immunotherapy - described how thanks to immunotherapy, the word "cure" is now actually starting to be used by cancer researchers and oncologists.
When I was helping my dog fight osteosarcoma 4 years ago, I could find only one experimental immunotherapy in a clinical trial. And that trial had stopped enrolling new patients.
Today, thankfully, there are more options, and here is a list of ongoing studies investigating how immunotherapy can help dogs with osteosarcoma.
1. ELIAS Animal Health Immunotherapy
What is it? Combines autologous vaccine and infusion of dog’s own activated T-cells (called adoptive cell therapy) Pilot trial shows very long survival time for roughly half of the patient dogs.
Locations: Veterinary clinics in 10 states
Anything else? Most of the cost is covered if the dog is eligible for their clinical trial. The trial is randomized with a control arm.
More information: https://eliasanimalhealth.com/
2. Yale Canine Cancer EGFR/HER2 Vaccine
What is it? A vaccine that trains immune system to generate antibodies that target proteins (EGFR and HER2) that are abnormally over-expressed in many tumor cells. It has had success extending survival times and reversing metastasis in a subset of dogs.
Data: Pilot trial data is in the publication being reviewed.
Locations: This study is currently on hold, pending approval from USDA. It is expected to re-open in early 2021.
What is it? A drug that stimulates the immune system with active ingredients consisting of non-pathogenic bacterial cell wall fraction and nucleic acid.
Data: Several small studies with osteosarcoma patients with surgery alone or surgery combined with chemotherapy.
Contact: (613) 308-9788 or info@NovaVive.ca
Locations: Anywhere in North America. Contact them about other countries.
Anything else? Immunocidin is fully approved by the USDA for mammary tumors. But there has been a growing number of studies investigating safety and efficacy with other types of cancer including osteosarcoma, transitional cell carcinoma, lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma.
More information: https://www.novavive.ca/canine-research
4. Torigen Vaccine
Data: None specifically for osteosarcoma patients.
Contact: 860-519-9956 or https://www.torigen.com/contact-us
Location: Anywhere in the US. Make sure to contact them before surgery.
Anything else? Torigen is offering the vaccine to osteosarcoma patient who is also getting chemotherapy.
More information: https://www.torigen.com/
5. ARDENT Animal Health (previously called Medivet Biologics)Vaccine
What is it? Autologous vaccine created from dog’s own tumor cells.
Data: None specifically for osteosarcoma. But this paper by Yannelli et al. describes their early study.
Locations: Possibly anywhere in the US but contact them via their website.
More information: http://ardentanimalhealth.com/canine-cancer/
OTHER IMMUNOTHERAPY STUDIES
Here are additional single-location clinical studies where a dog may receive immunotherapy treatment.
For the most up-to-date list of studies, do a search in the AVMA animal health studies database:
1. Baltimore, MD
Johns Hopkins University
What is it? Cryoablation combined with immunotherapy (STING AGONIST)
Data: None yet.
Here’s summary of their clinical trial.
More details can be read here.
2. Brewster NY
Guardian Veterinary Specialists
What is it? Several immunotherapy treatments are offered by Dr. Impellizeri, including those involving HER2 targeting vaccine
Data: none specifically for osteosarcoma.
3. Fort Collins, CO
FLINT ANIMAL CANCER CENTER, Colorado State University
What is it? Experimental treatment that combines radiation therapy with immunotherapy
Anything else? This study is open to dogs multiple cancer types. A patient may receive immunotherapy or end up in the control arm and receive placebo.
If you come across or know of other immunotherapy studies accepting osteosarcoma patients, or if you have any additional information please let us know at email@example.com
This blog is published for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Always seek the guidance from your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s health or medical condition.