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Novel cancer treatment reduces side effects and cost

By Allison Tonini 

Painful images of hair loss, long hospital visits, fatigue and sickness are immediately associated with the common cancer treatments, which is why some pet owners are reluctant to seek therapy for their animals. Although aggressive chemotherapy can cause serious health issues in humans, the same is generally not true for animals.

Scientific studies have shown that dogs and cats react differently to chemotherapy than their human counterparts do. In fact, most of our furry friends don’t experience significant negative side effects. Still, there’s always room for improvement, and one researcher hard at work on advancing canine chemotherapy is Dr. Barbara Biller of Colorado State University.

Dr. Biller recently completed a study, funded by Morris Animal Foundation, in which she evaluated a new way of administering chemotherapy to dogs with soft-tissue sarcoma. Instead of using conventional chemotherapy, which entails administering large doses of drugs every few weeks, Dr. Biller used a novel method called metronomic chemotherapy. Metronomic chemotherapy involves frequent, low-level doses of drugs.

Most chemotherapy drugs target and kill any fast-growing cells in the body, including hair follicles, intestinal cells and white blood cells. The rapid loss of these healthy cells results in the health issues that give chemotherapy a bad reputation.

Metronomic chemotherapy, however, approaches cancer cells with caution. Instead of killing all fast-growing cells, the drugs cut off the blood supply to the cells that feed the cancerous tumor. Healthy cells are left unharmed, and without a steady blood supply, the tumor cannot grow.

Metronomic chemotherapy does not rid the body of cancer, but it does keep the tumor from growing and spreading. Although it is not ideal for all cases, Dr. Biller confirmed that metronomic chemotherapy can be a very attractive treatment option for dogs with cancer. With little to no side effects, metronomic chemotherapy is also less expensive and easier for a veterinarian to administer.

During the study, it was Dr. Biller’s mission to learn more specifics on how to treat dogs using metronomic chemotherapy. “Even though veterinarians have been using metronomic chemotherapy on patients, we have been guessing on important factors like what drugs we should use, what dose is needed and at what intervals we should treat the patient. We hope to determine some of those factors,” Dr. Biller says.

Dr. Biller explains that the next step is to zero in with finer precision on factors such as how to combine multiple drugs to achieve the desired results.

Even though there is still a lot to explore with metronomic cancer therapy, Dr. Biller remains hopeful, stating, “this study was definitely a step in the right direction.”

Related Links

Evaluating Metronomic Chemotherapy Using Tumor Biomarkers in Dogs with Soft Tissue Sarcoma
Evaluating a Therapeutic Target for Canine Soft-tissue Sarcomas

Posted by MAFon November 28, 2011.

Categories: Animal health, Animal studies, Canine cancer


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Submitted by at: December 8, 2011
I hope that study is also being done on causes of cancer in dogs. I have lost 2 rescue Scotties in the last 4 years. Both were not candidates for intervention although both were under regular vet care. MaryAnn Banta