Current Clinical Trials, Studies & Grants
According to Dr. Kevin Hahn, Medical Oncologist, Gulf Coast Veterinary Oncologists, "the treatment of cancer in animals utilizes many of the same methods available in human medicine. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hypothermia, immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy are all part of the arsenal assembled to fight cancer in the pet animal. Most clinical research trials investigating new methods of cancer diagnosis or treatment are conducted at colleges of veterinary medicine.

Although considered "experimental", effectiveness of the treatment has been proven in laboratory animals, safety has been demonstrated in normal dogs or cats, and the therapy is considered to be of potential benefit to the patient. Patients entering a clinical trial must be carefully monitored. Adherence to the treatment protocol is of vital importance to the veterinarian, the pet owner, and to future pets with cancer to ensure that the best in therapy and patient care is available.

When a patient treated in a clinical trial dies, a necropsy (autopsy) must be conducted to know the entire effect of the treatment; positive and negative. Many naturally occurring cancers in pet animals closely resemble human cancer and provide meaningful systems for cancer research to benefit both man and animals. The veterinary facility providing the clinical trial, with owner's permission, may provide specimens obtained from the patient (blood, urine, and/or tumor samples) to basic researchers to gain additional information that may benefit present and future cancer patients.

It is important to remember, research is not conducted on the pet itself. If you believe your pet with cancer might benefit from participating in a clinical trial or you would like additional information regarding a specific clinical trial, please check out the following Clinical Trial links.

Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine

California UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital

Colorado Colorado State University Animal Cancer Center

Connecticut Veterinary Oncology and Hematology Center

Illinois University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital

Indiana Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine

Louisiana Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine

Massachusetts Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

University of Minnesota Clinical Investigation Center

Missouri University of Missouri Scott Endowed Program in Veterinary Oncology

New Jersey Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

New Mexico Veterinary Cancer Care Research

New York Animal Medical Center

North Carolina North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine (Oncology)

Ohio Ohio State University College of Veternary Medicine

Pennsylvania Penn Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center: Research for Companion Animals [Penn VCIC]

Tennessee University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine

Texas Texas A & M University Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Wisconsin University of Wisconsin-Madison Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital


Bone Marrow Transplants
Dr. Sullivan at the Bellingham Veterinary & Critical Care Centre — Dr. Ed Sullivan, a veterinarian at the Bellingham Veterinary Critical Care Centre, located in Bellingham, Washington, has been extraordinary at "pushing the envelope", trying to get treatment for desperately sick animals. He has been working with the researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, located in Seattle, Washington, a world renowned facility for cancer treatment.

JAN 7, 2012 UPDATE from Dr. Sullivan:
I wanted to give you a brief update on our progress with the bone marrow transplant cases over the last few years. Collectively we are approaching 100 cases. The majority have been completed at NCSU, with additional cases here, LA, and San Diego. After a few years of testing different doses of consolidation chemotherapy, various mobilization strategies, and an escalating TBI dosage, we have settled on a protocol that is acceptably tolerated. We also have good PCR markers for both B and most T cell lymphomas (the PCR is run by Dr. Steele) for identification of molecular remission, hematopoietic harvest quality, and monitoring post BMT. We have also set up a DLA matching lab at FHCRC on a pay-for-service basis, and they have been able to rapidly identify related donor-recipient pairs for allogeneic transplants. About 35% of the autologous patients are long term survivors (over 2 years); and with a small number of allogeneic patients there has been 65% long term survival. These numbers are close to what is expected with humans. I suspect the autologous results will be somewhat better since many of the most recent cases are the ones that had the optimal dosing.

We have been able to bring the price down to a reasonable level--currently 12-15K depending upon the size of the dog and facility doing the transplant. A large portion of this cost is the neupogen ( 2500) and the TBI (3000). If we could come up with a cheaper source of neupogen, or better yet, a source of canine recombinant GCSF, that would be great. I keep working on this.

In addition, there is a new apheresis platform, the Optia from Caridian BCT, that is replacing the COBE Spectra. We have one of these units, and it is faster and much simpler to use.

I continue to believe there will be improvements in the protocol, better conditioning regimens (we use cytoxan now), cytogenetics for clonal identification, haploidentical protocols, reduced intensity protocols, and a DLA matching system that can identify unrelated DLA identical donors. I also believe there are many other hematopoietic malignancies that will be treatable with both autologous and allogenic BMT procedures--including the histiocytic diseases. In humans, mixed donor/recipient chimerism is sufficient to control hemophagocytic histiocytosis (not sure why this is the case), so a reduced intensity allogeneic bmt is sufficient to get disease control. It would be interesting to see if this is the case for dogs as well.

A little farther out there is the possibility of allogeneic BMT in conjunction with a whole cell tumor vaccine as a treatment for solid tumors. We did this with one dog with fibrosarcoma, and when the dog died a few years later he was free of fibrosarcoma.

NOV 25, 2007 UPDATE from Dr. Sullivan:
Bone marrow transplantation using hematopoietic stem cells (stem cells that can differentiate into all blood cell lines) has long been used in human medicine to treat many otherwise fatal malignancies and other bone marrow disorders.  Much of the pioneering research that made transplantation possible was completed with dogs over 30 years ago, and although the techniques were well described, they were not developed for use in dogs as patients due to the costs and complexities of the procedures.  Recent scientific discoveries involving the identification of donor recipient pairs, as well as the availability of sophisticated veterinary supportive care, coupled with the desire of pet owners to seek treatments for traditionally incurable conditions, has created an environment in which bone marrow transplantation (hematopoietic stem cell transplants--HSCT) for dogs with naturally occurring diseases is feasible.   

Our work over the last four years has focused on the practical application of HSCT for dogs with lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, malignant histiocytosis,  and other bone marrow diseases.  There are two main types of transplants, one using the patient's own stem cells to reconstitute the bone marrow after chemotherapy and total body irradiation--an autologous transplant.  The second type--an allogeneic transplant--uses stem cells from a donor that has matching major histocompatibility complex antigens--in dogs known as dog leukocyte antigens, or DLA--to reconstitute the bone marrow.  Both types of transplants have the potential to achieve a cure, however, they also have pros and cons that can make one option more desirable over the other.  In most situations, it is best to plan for both procedures, then chose one when it is determined whether or not a donor can be found.   

Some procedures are completed in preparation of both types of transplants.  These include complete staging of the disease (with lymphoma the subtype, B or T cell) as well as the degree of organ involvement.  It is also important that a tumor sample sent to us before chemotherapy has started so we can identify the tumor clone, using flow cytometry and gene rearrangements.  This information will be used to confirm remission prior to the transplant as well as for monitoring for relapse of disease after the transplant.  Additionally, a large tumor sample (5gm or more) can be used produce an anti-tumor vaccine (either whole cell or anti-idiotype for B Cell lymphoma) that can be used after the transplant to increase an anti tumor immune response.  Some of these tumor cells will also be set up in cell culture as well as cryopreserved for future use in generating additional vaccine. 

After initial staging and submission of tumor samples to the lab, chemotherapy can be started.  Any standard induction protocol can be used, and after 8 weeks of therapy, we take blood and lymph node samples to confirm remission.  During this time an effort to find any donors is made--it is important to do this quickly, as it can take a long time to find the potential donors and speak with them about participating in a transplant. 

If a suitable donor is identified, then an allogeneic transplant is scheduled three weeks after the last dose of chemotherapy.  If no donor is found, then an autologous transplant is scheduled.    

To date, we have completed three allogeneic transplants and three autologous transplants.  Two of the allogeneic patients are long term disease free survivors (one is 4 years since the original diagnosis and the second is just over 2 years since the original diagnosis).  A third allogeneic patient relapsed and died with disease progression after 20 months.  One of the autologous transplant patients died with disease progression shortly after the transplant--she was on the third relapse at the time, and we were only hoping to rescue her until a donor could be found.  A second autologous dog had relapse of disease 13 months after the initial diagnosis, however, he went back into remission with chemotherapy and is currently in remission with stable disease.  The third autologous patient has just recently been completed--so far it is going well, but it is too soon to know the outcome. 

In the future, it may be possible to complete allogeneic transplants in combination with a tumor vaccine to treat other types of cancer.  In this scenario, an allogeneic transplant is done followed by vaccination of the donor with a killed, whole cell tumor vaccine.  Once the donor exhibits an immune response to the vaccine, lymphocytes are collected from the donor and given to the recipient (the recipient already is engrafted with hematopoietic stem cells from the donor).  These stimulated lymphocytes potentially will mobilize the new immune system in the recipient to recognize the original tumor as abnormal and eliminate it.  This scenario is currently being tested in our facility. 

If you have a dog with lymphoma, or know of one, they may be eligible for this treatment. This is a fantastic breakthrough. Dr. Sullivan is also trying to set up funding so that those in need of financial assistance, can afford treatment. You or your veterinarian can call the Bellingham Veterinary and Critical Care Centre, at 360-734-0720. They are located at 720 Virginia Street, Bellingham, WA USA, 98225.

NC State College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Teaching Hospital Oncology Dept


Since 2008, NC State has been providing bone marrow transplants. Canine bone marrow transplants at NC State University's College of Veterinary Medicine are providing a rich source of new oncology research knowledge.

Canine lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancer in dogs. While the survival rate with current treatments is extremely low (about 0 to 2 percent) the cure rate for dogs that have received a bone marrow transplant is at least 30 percent.

The relatively new procedure involves the use of leukaphoresis machines that are designed to harvest healthy stem cells from the peripheral blood. The machines are used in conjunction with drug therapy to harvest stem cells that have left the patient's bone marrow and entered the bloodstream. The harvested cancer-free cells are then reintroduced into the patient after total body radiation is used to kill residual cancer cells left in the body. This treatment is called peripheral blood stem cell transplantation.

The harvesting procedure itself takes six hours and the patient remains in the hospital for two weeks following the procedure. The bone marrow transplant process is completely painless for dogs, although the dogs do experience some GI distress, manifested mainly as diarrhea, from the total body radiation.

This facility is located at 4700 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27606 and can be reached at (919) 513-6500.

Dog Disease Research at the Broad Institute
Now that The Broad Institute has the dog genome sequence, they are putting it to use. The goal is to understand – and ultimately treat – the genetic causes of disease in dogs as well as their human companions. This important research cannot proceed without the dog community's participation. The Broad Institute needs DNA samples from purebred dogs suffering from the diseases they are studying (described below), as well as from older, healthy dogs from the breeds they are studying.
Sending DNA samples
Information for veterinarians
More information on the Institute's research
Printable brochure (PDF)

Cancers: Cancer affects 30-50% of all dogs. A higher incidence in certain breeds suggests that genetic risk factors exist and can be identified. Many dog cancers are clinically similar to human cancers, including several that they are working on.

  • Osteosarcoma (Bone cancer): Osteosarcoma is the most common bone tumor of dog. This cancer develops in the bone, usually the limbs, and as the tumor grows it becomes progressively more painful for the dog and can result in lameness. Often these tumors metastasize to the lungs. Giant breeds are at the greatest risk for developing osteosarcomas. Breeds needed for study: Rottweilers, Greyhounds, Mastiffs, Leonbergers, Golden Retrievers, Irish Wolfhounds, Great Pyrenees, Great Danes, Borzoi and Scottish Deerhounds

  • Hemangiosarcoma: Hemangiosarcomas are rapidly growing and highly invasive, blood-fed tumors. Blood vessels grow from the tumor and often cause death through excessive blood loss due to rupturing of the tumor. Breeds needed for study: Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Chinese Shar-Peis, Boxers, Pugs, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks

  • Mast Cell Tumors (MCT): MCTs are cancerous proliferations of mast cells. Although they can and will spread throughout the body, the danger from MCTs comes from the secondary damage caused by the release of chemicals the tumors produce. These chemicals can cause systemic problems that include gastric ulcers, internal bleeding, and a range of allergic manifestations. Breeds needed for study: Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Pugs, Shar-Peis and Boxers 

  • Lymphoma: A cancer of the lymphocytes that can occur in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and other organs. Characteristics are high white blood cell count, swollen lymph glands, lethargy, and loss of appetite. It is a treatable cancer, but if left untreated, it will eventually lead to death. A number of B- and T-cell subtypes exist. Breeds needed for study: Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Rottweilers and Boxers

  • Mammary tumors: Tumors of the mammary gland are the most common tumors found in unspayed female dogs. Several subtypes exist but may segregate in the same families. Breeds needed for study: English Springer Spaniels, Boxers and Cocker Spaniels

  • Melanoma (skin cancer): Melanoma is a cancer of melanocytes (the pigment-producing cells of the skin). Irregular cells develop when the melanocytes erratically multiply and invade surrounding tissue. Malignant melanomas can spread from the original tumor and travel through the blood to other vessels and organs. Breeds needed for study: Scottish Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, and other breeds.

The Golden Retriever Club of America has designed a page with cancer research contact information. It is a great item to print out and have placed in your dog's veterinary chart. 


Famous model Golden Rusty