Cancer in Dogs
Photo courtesy of tripawds.com: "Better to hop on three legs than to limp on four."
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, nor do I have any formal training in any medical field. The information presented here is not meant to replace your vet's advice or prescribed medications, but only to suggest additional options to explore, based on your dog's condition.
For many types of cancer, increasing protein and fat and reducing carbohydrates (starches) in the diet can help to slow tumor growth and prevent cancer cachexia (weight loss due to the effects of the cancer). It is also important to increase omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, and decrease omega-6 fatty acids, found in plant oils. The best source of DHA (highest concentration) is from oils that come from algae, such as Algal-900 DHA (also available at Amazon), according to Dr. Ogilvie (see below). Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in fish oil (such as salmon oil) Give an amount of fish oil that provides around 300 mg combined EPA and DHA per 10 lbs of body weight daily, preferably split into two doses. Do not use cod liver oil, as the amount of vitamins A and D would be excessive when given at high doses. Do not use flax seed oil in place of algae or fish oil, as the form of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants must be converted to EPA and DHA in order to be utilized by dogs, and this conversion is inefficient at best, nonexistent at worst. Flax seed oil also contains some omega-6 fatty acids, which should be avoided.
Dr. Ogilvie DVM has done research at Colorado State University on a cancer starving diet. You can read Dr. Ogilvie's paper, Nutrition and Cancer, or see an article about his research with information on homemade diets, Nutrition for Dogs with Cancer (see updated diets under Cancer Diet). See the article entitled Total Cancer Management in Small Animals for some good information on diet, supplements and alternative treatments for cancer. Also see Diets for the Cancer Patient for a short summary.
Selenium is the only mineral known to have antitumorigenic and preventative properties. The NRC tripled their recommended daily amount in 2006, while AAFCO guidelines have not yet been changed. Too much selenium can be harmful, however. A safe supplemental dosage for both prevention and treatment of cancer would be 2 to 4 mcg per kg (1 to 2 mcg per pound) of body weight daily. For example, a 25 lb dog would benefit from 25 to 50 mcg selenium daily. Selenium works synergistically with vitamin E, so it is best to supplement these two nutrients together.
The supplement Berte's Immune Blend is based on the supplements recommended by Dr Ogilvie. It contains vitamin C, bioflavonoids, vitamin E, selenium, l-glutamine and l-arginine (two amino acids he recommends, see below), digestive enzymes, pancreatin, acidophilus, B complex, and vitamins A & D.
Recent research indicates that Bromelain, an enzyme that comes from pineapples, may have an anti-cancer effect. Bromelain is used with dogs as an anti-inflammatory and for many other conditions, and should be safe to give. It may work best when given away from meals.
Branch-chain amino acids (BCAA), e.g., leucine, isoleucine and valine, may help to counteract cancer cachexia, where the dog loses lean body mass despite consuming adequate calories. You can find branch-chain amino acid supplements made for people. A safe non-toxic dose of leucine for veterinary patients may be approximately 100 - 200 mg per kg (50-100 mg per pound) of body weight daily. For example, a 25 lb dog would get 1,250 to 2,500 mg leucine daily.
The amino acids L-Arginine and L-Glutamine may help inhibit tumor growth. Glutamine can also help with muscle wasting (cachexia) that may occur as well. See the following articles for more information:
- Arginine in the Treatment of Cancerous Tumors
- Arginine and Fish Oil May Help Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy
- Effect of fish oil, arginine, and doxorubicin chemotherapy on remission and survival time for dogs withlymphoma
- Therapeutic Considerations of L-Glutamine: A Review of the Literature
- The Role of Glutamine in Oncology Therapy
- Benefits of the amino acid, L-Glutamine
- Glutamine: Indicated in Cancer Care?
Cartilage supplements may inhibit tumor growth. I heard one anecdotal report directly from someone with a toy poodle that had a major mass in his chest. After two bottles of Bovine Cartilage supplements, the mass was almost gone, and he went on to live another six years. Since cartilage is safe and inexpensive (and may help with arthritis as well), this one seems like it might be worth a try, though scientific support is negligible.
Supplements that support or stimulate the immune system, including antioxidants, are often recommended for cancer prevention and support. See Sensible Supplements for Immunonutrition for more info.
Supplements to give or avoid during chemotherapy or radiation
High doses of antioxidants should be avoided during chemotherapy, as they may actually help the cancer cells survive the treatment. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E, beta carotene, selenium, lipoic acid, and SAM-e. Discontinue use one week before chemotherapy treatment, and resume one week after the treatment has been completed.
Garlic may interfere with the body's ability to rid itself of toxic chemotherapy drugs.
A number of supplements can thin the blood and make bleeding more likely during surgery, or due to the reduction in platelets (thrombocytopenia) that can be caused by chemotherapy, or by bone cancer. Herbs that may need to be avoided include garlic, ginseng, ginkgo, saw palmetto, red clover, German chamomile, dong guai, angelica root and white willow bark. In addition, fish oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil, vitamin A, high-dose vitamin E, chondroitin, ginger, bromelain, MSM, alfalfa, hawthorne, meadowsweet, turmeric/curcumin, bilberry, feverfew, and some mushrooms all have the potential to thin the blood, though I have not seen specific recommendations to avoid them during cancer treatment. Aspirin is a potent blood-thinner; other NSAIDs have less effect. If in doubt, ask your vet.
Glucosamine, given as an oral rinse, helps to reduce mouth ulceration (stomatitis) caused by radiation to the head and neck. Glucosamine may also help to prevent intestinal and neurological side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Fish oil, such as salmon oil or EPA oil (not cod liver oil) helps to reduce cancer cachexia (weight loss due to cancer) and appears to increase the effects of chemotherapy.
Ginger can help with nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, but its antioxidant properties may offset the benefit of some chemotherapy drugs. You can use products such as Ginger-Mint from Animals' Apawthecary, Tasha's Ginger Tummy and Minty Ginger from Herbs for Kids (available at Whole Foods and other health food stores). You can also give ginger capsules or ginger tea.
See the following articles for more information.
- Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology, by Alice Villalobos
- Herb-Drug Interactions for Cancer
- Complementary Medications and Chemotherapy Herbal Medications and Supplements (human oriented)
- Chemotherapy (human oriented) -- scroll down to the sections on Safetychecker Summary for Chemotherapy,
- Interactions with Dietary Supplements, and Interactions with Herbs.
Surgery is the recommended treatment for all mast cell tumors, whenever possible. Remember that supplements such as those below should be used in addition to surgery, if possible, rather than in place of it. Supplements would not be needed for low-grade mast cell tumors that are completely removed, but could be worth trying if your dog has inoperable tumors, high-grade tumors, or tumors that were not completely excised during surgery.
For more information on mast cell cancer, see Approach to Therapy for Canine Mast Cell Tumor:
I have read second hand of a dog with aggressive, metastasized Mast Cell cancer that had most of his tumors go away when given Curcumin, an extract from Turmeric (see Alternative treatment for mast cell tumors!). This is a spice used in curry that has been showing promising results in the prevention and treatment of cancer (it is also a natural anti-inflammatory). It works both by cutting off the blood supply to the growing tumor as well as causes tumor cell death (p53 mediated apoptosis). According to the post above, which I have not been able to verify, the recommended dosage of curcumin for treatment of cancer is 80 mg/kg/day (36 mg/lb/day), or 400 mg twice a day for a 25 lb dog, administered orally (the highest recommended dosage is 120 mg/kg/day, or 55 mg/lb/day, to avoid toxicity). Give with food and start with lower dosage, increasing gradually, to avoid stomach upset.
Curcumin and turmeric are available over the counter through health food stores.See the following for more information:
- Why the Buzz about Turmeric?
- Spice of Life: Curcumin and Dog Cancer and More on Curcumin and Dog Cancer
- Cancer Prevention: Curcumin
- Modulation of arachidonic acid metabolism by curcumin describes a study showing that curcumin inhibits COX-1, similar to NSAIDs.
- Curcumin supplement extract review of health benefits, side effects and research studies
- Medicinal Foods: Turmeric
- Turmeric from the University of Minnesota
Turmeric comes in both powder and capsule form. Curcumin extracts are 18 times as potent as turmeric powder, so dosage should be adjusted correspondingly. Turmeric has blood-thinning properties, so discontinue for a week before and after surgery.
Giving turmeric with bromelain, a natural anti-inflammatory, may help increase absorption and effectiveness. An article on Degenerative Myelopathy German Shepherd Dogs recommends giving 400-500 mg each turmeric extract and bromelain twice a day to a large dog (400-500 mg turmeric extract would be equivalent to 7.2 to 9 grams of turmeric powder, or about 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of powder).
IP-6 has been around for a long time and I haven't heard much in the way of reliable success stories, but I was contacted recently by someone whose dog had mast cell tumors recur after surgery, and whose tumors reduced substantially in size when she began supplementing with IP6. This dog did succumb to mast cell cancer about 5 months later, but she feels IP-6 helped to prolong his life, and might have done more had she started it sooner. The Cell Forte IP-6 and Inositol brand is recommended.
Part 1: Diagnosis and Staging
Part 2: Surgery and Pathology
Part 3: Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy and New Directions
In June 2009, the FDA approved a new drug for the treatment of mast cell tumors that recur after they have been surgically removed. In January, 2011, another new drug for treatment of mast cell tumors that recur or cannot be removed surgically received conditional approval. See New Treatments below for additional information.
Lymphoma is one cancer that is very responsive to chemotherapy, which can induce remission for up to a year or even longer, but will not cure the disease. Many people are reluctant to do chemotherapy for fear that it will make their dogs feel awful, but most dogs tolerate the treatment very well. Lower doses of chemotherapeutic drugs are used with dogs than with people, so it doesn't affect them as strongly. See Stages of Treatment for Cancer in Pets for a general overview.
Prednisone can be used as a less expensive alternative to other chemotherapeutic agents, but the remission will be much shorter. While many dogs will experience significant short-term improvement, the duration of that improvement is typically on the order of only 1-2 months, and there is some thought that prednisone may induce chemotherapy resistance. In other words, multi-agent chemotherapy is much less likely to be efficacious if a patient has come out of remission after treatment with prednisone alone (Advances in Treatment for Canine Lymphoma, Part 2). Veterinary Partner concurs, saying, "Exposure to prednisone will make the lymphoma much more difficult to diagnose should biopsies be obtained later. Plus exposure to prednisone can lead to resistance to other medications. (This is less of a problem for cats, but in dogs even a few days of prednisone can make a lasting remission impossible to achieve.)" Purdue Comparitive Oncology Program is conducting a study to assess the importance of prednisone in a combination chemotherapy protocol (UW-25) for canine lymphoma.
Diet and supplements can help with this form of cancer. "Research conducted at Colorado State University' Veterinary Teaching Hospital supports that high protein and lower carbohydrate diets, associated with higher levels of healthy fatty acids, including fish oil fatty acids in high dosages, and supplemental arginine, has shown statistically significant improvement in survival times in canine lymphoma patients." (Integrative Veterinary Medicine). A high dosage of fish oil (body oil, such as salmon oil or EPA oil, not cod liver oil) is an amount that supplies 300 mg combined EPA and DHA per 10 lbs of body weight daily. Be sure to give vitamin E as well when you supplement with oils.
October 2011: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine tested a vaccine made from the dog's own blood against B-Cell Lymphoma (also called non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma). While vaccinated dogs relapsed at the same rate as unvaccinated dogs, their response to a second "rescue" round of chemotherapy resulted in much better survival rates, with some dogs surviving three years or longer. See A Potential Giant Step Forward in Lymphoma Treatment and Penn Researchers Demonstrate Efficacy of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Vaccine for more information.
September 2010: The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is conducting a study on dogs with multicentric lymphoma using new drugs. See University of Illinois veterinary researchers find success with lymphoma treatment for more information on the treatment. See Treatment of Canine Multicentric Lymphoma With Novel Anticancer Agents for information on how to enroll in the study.
In September, 2008, North Carolina State University announced that they are now offering bone marrow transplants for dogs, the same as is done for humans. The cure rate is expected to be at least 50%. The cost is approximately $15,000. The treatment is only available for dogs who weigh at least 18 to 20 pounds. See Bone Marrow Transplants Promising for Treating Canine Lymphoma for more information.
There is now a blood test for lymphoma, the Tri-Screen Canine Lymphoma Assay Kit, offered by PetScreen that can be used both to diagnose lymphoma and to monitor treatment. While the company is located in England, they have a laboratory in Columbia, Missouri, where samples from the U.S. and Canada can be sent. The test can differentiate lymphoma from lymphadenopathy due to other ailments, such as lymphoid hyperplasia. See Advanced Veterinary Diagnostics to Fight Cancer in Cats and Dogs for more info. This information originally came from a veterinary oncologist's blog in February 2010. Also see this short article in Veterinary Practice News from November 2011: New Joint Venture Launches Canine Lymphoma Test.
See these sites for general information on lymphoma in dogs, including chemotherapy protocols and personal stories:
- Lymphoma in Dogs
- Lymphoma Nutritional Therapy
- Lymphosarcoma (Lymphoma) in Dogs (and subsequent pages)
- Advances in Treatment for Canine Lymphoma
- Cancer -- Lymphoma
- Canine Lymphosarcoma (Lymphoma, LSA)
- Lymphoma from Canine Cancer Awareness
- Lymphosarcoma in Dogs
- Cost Saving Lymphoma Protocol for Canines
- Canine Lymphoma: Protocols For 2004
- Rescue Treatment of Canine Lymphoma
- Personal reports:
- Saving Bentley
- Hailey's story: Ongoing success at fighting lymphosarcoma
- Jamie and Boris - our personal experience- survivors
- Nicholas' Story
- Living with Canine Lymphoma: Clondike's Story
- Hunter's Story
- Living with Canine Lymphoma
- Roxanne has Cancer Note: this article talks about vaccinating a dog with mast cell tumors. You should never vaccinate a dog with cancer of any kind, especially mast cell tumors. See my section on Vaccination Information for more info on why vaccination boosters are unnecessary anyway.
See these sites for general information on malignant histiocytosis in dogs:
- Malignant Histiocytosis in dogs (Disseminated Histiocytic Sarcoma)
- Canine Histiocytosis -- Frequently asked questions
- Histiocytosis in the Bernese Mountain Dog
Studies have been done in 1996-1999 indicating that treatment with TALL-104 induced remission in dogs, but I can't find information about this treatment being available, just the studies:
"It has also been reported that treatment with the human major histocompatibility complex, nonrestricted, cytotoxic T-cell line TALL-104 induced complete remission in four dogs with advanced disseminated histiosarcoma for time periods ranging from 9 to 22 months."
Here are the studies themselves, in reverse chronological order:
- http://www.wistar.org/news_info/pdfs/scientific2000.pdf(see pages 102-103 of the report, pages 105-106 of the pdf file)
There is now a urine test that detects a veterinary bladder tumor antigen (v-TBA) that can be used to help diagnose TCC, though false positives are common (78% specificity). False positive test results may occur when samples contain blood, protein or glucose. False negative test results are less common than false positive results (90% sensitivity). Scotties are 18 times prone to transitional cell carcinoma than other breeds. Note the article in the link above reversed the percentages of sensitivity and specificity -- see V-BTA Test Package Insert for the correct information
Piroxicam (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) has shown success with bladder cancer (Transitional Cell Carcinoma). See these articles for more info:
- Canine Bladder Cancer
- Urinary Bladder Cancer in Dogs
- Piroxicam and Bladder Cancer in Canines
- How well are you managing urinary bladder cancer?
- Bladder Cancer Message Board
Preliminary trials are also underway using carprofen (Rimadyl) and deracoxib (Deramaxx) in place of Piroxicam. Early results (as of February 2011) appear promising, but we won't know for some time how well they work. See Antitumor effects of deracoxib treatment in 26 dogs with transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder for more information.
New Approaches to Squamous Cell Cancer talks about photodyamic therapy and the use of COX-2 inhibitors to treat squamous cell carcinomas. Many NSAIDs are considered COX-2 inhibitors -- see NSAIDs for more information. The vet who wrote about this has developed and is promoting a supplement called Apocaps (also available from Amazon), though this appears to be an antioxidant supplement rather than a COX-2 inhibitor. He warns that the dosage of Apocaps should be reduced by halgf when they are combined with NSAIDs or prednisone.
A study published in the September 1, 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that a single subcutaneous infusion of the chemotherapy drug carboplatin given after surgery resulted in similar survival times and adverse effects when compared to traditional chemotherapy protocols for osteosarcoma that involved giving drugs intravenously multiple times over the course of several weeks. See Chemotherapy Made Simple for more information.
The use of bisphosphonates can help to alleviate pain from osteosarcoma when surgery is not an option. When pamidronate, a second-generation bisphosphonate, is given intravenously once a month in addition to other pain medications, about 30% of treated patients achieved durable pain alleviation in excess of four months. Radiation therapy, however, remains the most effective treatment for controlling osteosarcoma pain in dogs, so this treatment should be considered in addition to, rather than instead of, radiation therapy. See Will pamidronate help manage osteosarcoma pain? for more information.
Bioniche Life Sciences, a Canadian biopharmaceutical company, launched its Immunocidin canine oncology therapy in October 2012. Immunocidin, an immunotherapy for the intratumoral treatment of mixed mammary tumor and mammary adenocarcinoma in dogs, is based on a proprietary mycobacterial cell wall technology. Immunocidin does not require special handling as other chemotherapeutic agents do, making it accessible to general practitioners to treat this form of cancer in their own clinics, either alone or in conjunction with other therapies. Product developers are anticipating approval of the treatment for other forms of cancer in coming years. Immunocidin is available in the U.S. and Canada. See Immunocidin (Canada) for more info.
Veterinarians at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine conducted a small study using a mushroom extract to treat dogs with hemangiosarcoma. Results were published in September, 2012:
Dogs with hemangiosarcoma that were treated with a compound derived from the Coriolus versicolor mushroom had the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease.
Further studies are planned, but the mushroom extract, called I’m-Yunity, is available now and appears to be safe to try. The extract is fairly expensive, however, particularly for large dogs. Each 400 mg capsule costs between $1.10 and $1.58, depending on the quantity purchased at one time. Dosages used in the study ranged from 25 to 100 mg/kg (11 to 45 mg/lb) of body weight daily. At 25 mg/kg, that would be one 400 mg capsule per 35 pounds of body weight daily. Differences in survival time between the different doses was not statistically significant, so it's possible that lower doses might have some beneficial effect as well.
See the following for more information:
- Compound Derived From a Mushroom Lengthens Survival Time in Dogs With Cancer, Penn Vet Study Finds
- Single Agent Polysaccharopeptide Delays Metastases and Improves Survival in Naturally Occurring Hemangiosarcoma
The University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine opened clinical trials of a new form of cancer therapy in June 2009. Any dog with a primary brain tumor may be eligible for free treatment. See New Therapy for Brain Cancer for more information.
In June 2009, the FDA approved a new drug for the treatment of mast cell tumors that recur after they have been surgically removed. The drug is called Palladia (toceranib phosphate) and is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) manufactured by Pfizer. For now, it will only be available to cancer and internal medicine specialists. The price is not known, but it is likely to be expensive.
In the initial study of 86 dogs treated with Palladia, the tumor disappeared in 8.1% and shrank in another 29.1%. In addition, tumors stopped growing in 20.9% of the dogs.
In January, 2011, the FDA also gave conditional approval to Masitinib mesylate, marketed as Kinavet-CA1, a new drug for treating mast cell tumors that recur or cannot be surgically removed. Like Palladia, mastineb is also a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It has been used previously in Europe.
These drugs are given continuously daily or every other day for 12 months or longer. Regular monitoring of blood work is recommended weekly for the first six weeks, then every six weeks thereafter (or monthly for six months, then going to every other month if everything is going well).
The major side effects seen with TKIs are adverse gastrointestinal signs. Concurrent treatment with famotidine (Pepcid, an antacid), maropitant citrate (Cerenia, used to control vomiting), metronidazole (Flagyl), and sucralfate (Carafate, used to prevent and treat gastric ulceration) can help to prevent gastrointestinal toxicity that can be caused by these drugs.
See the following for more info:
- Mast Cell Tumors – From Benign to Malignant to Somewhere In-between
- New Treatment for Mast Cell Tumors
- Impact of Palladia on Canine Osteosarcoma North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine is recruiting patients with osteosarcoma for a study on the as of January 2011.
- AB Science nails conditional approval for veterinary mast cell tumor treatment
- Masitinib is safe and effective for the treatment of canine mast cell tumors
- Recurrent mast cell tumors in a boxer (also discusses other therapies)
- Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine is recruiting patients as of March 2011 for the following clinical trials:
- Palladia/Piroxicam/Cyclophosphamide Treatment for Dogs with Osteosarcoma
- Maintenance Therapy with Toceranib (Palladia) Following Doxorubicin-Based Chemotherapy in Canine Splenic Hemangiosarcoma
- Analysis of Palladia Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics at Non-Label Dosing
- Examining the Efficacy of Toceranib Phosphate (Palladia) as a Primary and/or Adjuvant Agent in the Treatment of Canine Nasal Carcinoma
A relatively new drug called mirtazapine (Remeron) is being used to treat dogs with cancer. It helps to stimulated the appetite, and to reduce nausea and vomiting that can be caused by chemotherapy. It also has an antihistamine effect, which can be helpful to dogs with mast cell tumors. Lastly, it also acts as an antidepressant. See Mirtazapine for Dog Cancer for more information.
Following removal of a cancerous tumor, it is now possible to implant tiny cisplatin beads around the tumor site rather than using this chemotherapy drug systemically. The beads should prevent the tumor from recurring in the same location, although it will not prevent the cancer from spreading, such as to the lungs. The beads are associated with far fewer side effects than when cisplatin is administered systemically; in particular, the kidney failure that cisplatin can cause does not appear to be a risk with these beads. Ideally, the beads are planted at the same time that the tumor is removed. There is a limit to how many beads can be used, so this will not work for very large tumors. Cisplatin beads are currently being used for tumors removed with "thin margins," including:
- Soft tissue sarcomas (nerve sheath tumor, fibrosarcoma, hemangiopericytoma)
- Melanoma (in the skin or the mouth)
- Some carcinomas (Squamous cell carcinoma, salivary gland carcinoma, thyroid carcinoma, anal sac carcinoma).
This therapy began to be used with dogs and cats in 2006, so there is limited history but it appears quite promising. They were originally used with horses. See the following for more information:
- Matrix III Cisplatin Beads Information from the company who makes them.
- Biodegradable Cisplatin Polymer in Limb-Sparing Surgery for Canine Osteosarcoma
- Cisplatin biodegradable beads save Gretta from amputation Personal anecdote.
I originally read about this therapy in Dr. Phil Zeltzman's newsletter dated 2/27/09. While his newsletters are not available on his site, you might be able to contact him for a copy of this newsletter.
CLA is a fatty acid that inhibits the development of tumors. I've heard of a dog with breast cancer metastasis that was having success with this therapy. This nutrient is found primarily in the meat and milk products of pasture-raised, grass-fed animals. See the following articles for more information:
- CLA: Does Fat Have a Silver Lining?
- What is CLA? Dietary CLA in Grass-fed Animals
- CLA More on dietary CLA in grass-fed animals.
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid and Dietary Beef -- An Update Includes table of CLA amounts in various foods.
- Emerging Health Benefits of CLA (human oriented)
- CLA Various scientific abstracts (human oriented)
Some new studies suggest that Melatonin may be effective against certain types of cancer. It can also help combat some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, when given in high doses (one person was advised by a cancer specialist to give her 120-lb dog 20-40 mg each night at bedtime while undergoing radiation treatment).. Melatonin has been used with dogs to combat thunderstorm phobias and certain forms of alopecia (hair loss), and is being tried as a treatment for separation anxiety, so it is safe to use with dogs, at least in moderation. See the following for a little more info on its use with cancer (most are human-oriented):
- Melatonin and Cancer Treatment
- Melatonin includes a link to a Detailed Scientific Review.
- Canine and Feline Cancer Links includes some info on melatonin
- A Supplement that Works???
- Melatonin Could Help Patients on Chemotherapy
- Melatonin overview that includes information on possible interactions with other drugs
These scientific studies show the effectiveness of melatonin in combating side-effects of radiation therapy, and its non-toxicity even when used in extremely high doses:
- Melatonin and protection from whole-body irradiation
- Antioxidative Effects of Melatonin in Protection Against Cellular Damage Caused by Ionizing Radiation
Anti-angiogenic drugs, although still experimental, are showing some success at treating tumors by cutting off their blood supply. See Dog's Cancer Helps Research for more information. This is called the Navy Protocol, after the dog in the story whose name was Navy. See the article on Antiangiogenic Therapy for Canine Cancers for more info. Also see their main page on Cancer for more information about how various types of cancer may respond to antiangiogenic therapy.
Curcumin has also been found to have anti-angiogenic properties, and may be particularly effective against tumors in the stomach and intestines. See Mast Cell Cancer above for more information on curcumin. Also see the following:
New research being done at the University of Washington is showing promise for treating some specific cancers with an herbal extract that has been used for malaria, called Artemisinin. It has low toxicity when given in proper doses orally, and has shown some effectiveness with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and lymphosarcoma in dogs when used at a dosage of 50-100 mg twice a day for a large breed. It is also being used to treat breast cancer in humans. It is apparently more effective when given along with iron salts.
See the following for more information, several of which mention studies done with dogs:
- Pumping Iron: Increasing Muscle Mass or Curing Cancer?
- Chinese remedy 'may fight cancer'
- Cancer Smart Bomb, Part I: An Idea from Ancient Chinese Medicine
- Cancer Smart Bomb: Part II: Artemisinin Follow-Up
- New Hope for Treating Cancer
- Artemisinin Study Abstracts
- Artemisinin_and_Cancer email group
A DNA vaccine for the treatment of malignant melanomas received full approved by the USDA in January 2009 (conditional approval was received in 2007). See the following for more information:
- How We Treat Oral Melanoma in Dogs
- New therapeutic canine melanoma vaccine approved
- MERIAL Receives Full License Approval for ONCEPT(TM) Canine Melanoma Vaccine
- Canine Melanoma Vaccine
- See results of the first clinical trial showing that the vaccine caused no toxicity and significantly prolonged survival time.
- Is a Melanoma Vaccine Right for You?
- Canine Melanoma Vaccine Gets Conditional OK See comments at bottom for some first-hand reports of people's experiences with the vaccine, including An update on Siwa & her fight against canine melanoma
- Metastatic malignant melanoma: Ugly cancers, comfortable “cures”
- Oral Malignancies Information on the vaccine and other forms of treatment.
- Canine Oral Melanoma Vaccine BrightHeart Veterinary Center in NY experiences
- Cancer Vaccine Program Shows Early Promise University of Wisconsin-Madison results
- Malignant Melanoma Treatment at Animal Emergency Center in WI
- Canine Melanoma Vaccine, DNA Merial's site
In 1997, a researcher at Purdue found that a fruit called PawPaw (asimina triloba) showed promise in fighting drug-resistant tumors. This product has since become commercially available. Most of the information I found is from commercial sites, so it's hard to know how reliable it is, but here are some links to check out:
- Pawpaw shows promise in fighting drug-resistant tumors
- The Pawpaw (asimina triloba)
- Paw Paw Fruit Against Cancer
- Paw Paw Alternative Cancer Treatment Comparison
A compound called DCA (sodium dichloroacetate) is being studied at the University of Alberta, where researchers report seemingly remarkable anticancer properties. This compound cannot be patented, and so pharmaceutical companies are showing little interest, but the University is trying to start human clinical trials. In the meantime, some people have produced this compound and made it available to purchase labeled for veterinary use, which doesn't require the same level of approval as human drugs do. You can read about it at The DCA Site. You may be able to purchase it from a compounding pharmacy, if you can get your vet to give your a prescription. This is very new as of early 2007, so we don't know a lot about the safety of DCA -- serious adverse effects were seen at medium and high dosage levels (39.5 to 72 mg/kg/day), and a few even at low dosage (12.5 mg/kg/day) in this study. It appears that the dosage people are trying with their dogs is 10-15 mg/kg/day, split into multiple doses rather than given all at once. Until more is known, I don't think it would be wise to use this compound unless you know your dog's cancer is terminal and other options have been exhausted.
I have heard indirectly of two people who are trying this treatment for dogs with lymphoma, both Golden Retrievers. These dogs are being fed a modified high-protein, low-carbohydrate homemade diet appropriate for dogs with cancer, and given immune-boosting supplements such as bromelain, turmeric and grapeseed, along with the DCA therapy. Here is some additional information from someone who is in contact with the owners of these dogs:
"The side effects of DCA are minimal compared to chemotherapy. The main problem seems to be acidification of the blood leading to progressive numbness in extremities. So the treatment is cyclic. For example two weeks of treatment followed by a few days respite to allow the acidity to recover. This first dog started to experience side effects after about 5 weeks of treatment but recovered within a couple of days. At nine weeks following diagnosis, the dog outwardly seems completely normal and not showing the usual symptoms of progression of the Lymphoma. Right now she should be dead. Last weekend she was out upland hunting for the day and maintained a normal high level of stamina throughout." The second dog is also doing well, but is at an earlier stage.
See DCA Therapy Data for a report on the use of DCA in human cancer patients. This site has observational data on 118 cancer patients treated with DCA, but it is not a controlled study. They are using a treatment regimen of 1-3 weeks on followed by 1 week off, with doses ranging from 15 to 75 mg/kg/day (average 25 mg/kg/day). They are also giving vitamin B1 and Alpha Lipoic Acid to try to counteract some of the side effects (see DCA Therapy for more info). They conclude, "It is our opinion that DCA is a useful and relatively safe medical treatment for cancer patients who have exhausted scientifically proven treatment options. However, just like chemotherapy, the response to DCA depends on the individual patient. Based on clinical judgment, it is difficult to predict which patients are more likely to respond to DCA. Chemosensitivity tests like ChemoFit™ may help predict response to DCA. We are not yet able to determine duration of response to DCA treatment. In our opinion, long term treatment with DCA may be limited by neuropathy. We will present more data on this once available."
Blood tests to detect cancer?
In June 2009, BioCurex announced a new test for cancer detection in dogs, called OncoPet, based on its RECAF(tm) technology. In preliminary tests, the company claims that the test detected 85% of cancers with 5% false positives. 5% false positives means that 5% of all dogs without cancer will be identified as having cancer, a number that may well be higher than the number of dogs with cancer who are accurately identified.. The test does not identify the type of cancer, or where in the body it is found, and does not work for all forms of cancer. The human test has been licensed for several years, yet no product has yet been produced. I was unable to find any information on either test except from the company that developed them. The OncoPet test became available in Spring 2010, but is still at the study stage. It's questionable whether this test will work as promised. See BioCurex Inc. has developed OncoPet(tm), a blood test to be used for cancer detection in dogs and New Cancer Blood Test for Pets for additional information.
Another blood test that claims to identify cancer in the early stages, called AMAS (Anti-malignin Antibody and Serum), is offered by Oncolab. However, there is little science behind this test. Because this test has been around for over 20 years and yet is not in widespread use, I doubt it has much value. See the following for more info:
- Anti-Malignin Antibody -- A Screening Test for Cancer?
- AMAS: A Blood Test for Detecting Cancer (has proved to be not effective for Prostate Cancer, with a very high percentage of false negatives).
- Is AMAS a Worthwhile Cancer Test?
Warning about chemotherapy for dogs with MDR1 gene mutation
The drugs Doxorubicin, Vincristine and Vinblastine are among the drugs that some dogs may be sensitive to. The MDR1 mutation causes multidrug sensitivity in some breeds, including Australian Shepherds (standard and miniature), Border Collies, Collies, English Shepherds, German Shepherds, Longhaired Whippets, McNabs, Old English Sheepdogs, Shetland Sheepdogs, Silken Windhounds, and mixed-breed dogs from any of these breeds (see Multidrug Sensitivity in Dogs for information about other drugs these breeds may be sensitive to, which include ivermectin, acepromazine, and others).
Books, email lists and web sites with more info
The Natural Vet's Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs by Shawn Messonnier. I have not seen this book myself, but it has been recommended to me. It provides a good overview of both conventional and alternative methods of preventing and treating cancer.
Help Your Dog Fight Cancer: An Overview of Home Care Options by Laurie Kaplan. I have not read the book myself, but it has been been recommended to me and appears to be a good resource for those looking for information on how best to help their dogs with cancer.
Herbal Medicine, Healing & Cancer by herbalist Donald Yance. Apparently recommended by some holistic veterinarians. It includes information on herbs to help with chemotherapy and other conventional treatments, as well as alternative treatments for various forms of cancer.
The Dog Cancer Survival Guide by Dr. Demian Dressler, veterinary cancer specialist. I have not read this book but enjoy his blog. This book covers traditional and alternative treatments, and gives advice on coping with a cancer diagnosis. The author also developed a supplement for dogs with cancer called Apocaps (also available from Amazon).
If your pet does not want to eat, try Dr. Goldstein's Radiation Cocktail .
See Email Lists and Message Boards under Cancer for support groups and more information on dogs with cancer.
- Cancer Resources
- Canine Cancer Care
- Diets for Dogs with Cancer
- Cancer in the Canine
- Is It Cancer? Never Assume
- The Cancer Center at CARES (see More Information links on right side of page)
- Human Cancer Treatment Goes to the Dogs
- Robin's Canine Cancer Files
- Canine Cancer
- Cancer and Tumors in Dogs
- Cancer in Dogs: The 28th Annual Canine Symposium
- Nutrition and Cancer: Exciting Advances for 2002!
- Nutrition and Cancer: New Keys for Cure and Control 2003!
- Supportive Care and Rehabilitation
- The Perseus Foundation
- The Role of Nutrition in Cancer Therapies
- Feed the Patient - Starve the Cancer
- Integrative Treatment of Cancer in Dogs
- Canine Cancer Awareness
- The Veterinary Cancer Society
- Cancer Links
- Feline & Canine Cancer Links
- Clinical Trials at the University of Pennsylvania Includes trials on lymphoma and osteosarcoma as of November 2012
- Ongoing clinical trials at Colorado State University Animal Cancer Center
- Current studies at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine
- Ongoing clinical trials at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
- Clinical Research Trials
- Clinical trials for any tumor type in dogs