Helping pets one trial at a time

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Megan McCarty loves to watch her dog, Mabel, run around the backyard. At the end of last year she didn’t know if she’d ever get to see it again.

“I just sort of noticed some swelling, like bumps in her neck that were just kind of off to me — so I ended up taking her into the vet and that’s when they were kind of suspecting cancer, but they weren’t really sure, and they did some tests that revealed that she did have lymphoma,” says McCarty.

The news was devastating. McCarty started looking into treatment options. She was referred to the U of I Veterinary Medicine’s Oncology Department. That’s where you can find Dr. Timothy Fan. He’s a professor of medical oncology.

“We usually say that there’s about 20 to 100 dogs per hundred thousand dogs at risk that develop lymphoma. It certainly is the most common tumor that we see in the clinics … It is a tumor that is very treatable in the sense that it is responsive to treatment but it’s not typically curable. So dogs will respond, but ultimately the tumor becomes more resistant and then we lose the effective drugs,” says Fan.

He says dogs typically have to take four or five drugs at a time and the treatment ends up being a long, expensive process. So researchers are trying to find something better. They’re doing that through a clinical trial. They’re testing Tanovea, a newer drug designed specifically for dogs.

“Every drug that we’ve used to treat canine lymphoma has always come from the human side,” says Fan. The idea is the combination of Tanovea, and an older drug called Doxorubicin, will treat the lymphoma but make it easier on the animal. They can take fewer drugs and the process is expected to be shorter and less expensive. Fan says the preliminary data is promising. 5-year-old Mabel is proof of that. She was in remission by her second treatment.

“I’m really happy. A lot of people don’t ever see remission so I’m lucky that she got into remission and she stayed in it. I feel really good about it,” says McCarty.

That trial isn’t the only one happening.

In a separate study, researchers are looking at a new probiotic supplement. It’s supposed to help dogs with chronic enteropathy, or stomach issues. A dog would typically have to try dietary therapy and steroids. Experts say diet changes only help about half of cases and steroids come with a lot of side effects.

“We’re looking to use living bacteria to help treat disease because there’s some evidence they can be effective and you’d expect them to have many fewer side effects compared to some medications, says Dr. Patrick Barko, a veterinarian.

You can still sign your animal up for the probiotic study, and other trials.

To see a list of those, click here.

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