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News from #AAHA2016: Learn About Canine Osteosarcoma Breakthroughs

The 2016 AAHA Conference enabled the Tripawds Foundation to reach more vets than ever before. As a bonus, we got to attend educational sessions about veterinary topics near and dear to us, like oncology and pain management.

Today, check out what we learned in the seminar called “Osteosarcoma in Dogs: New Therapeutic Advances.”

Osteosarcoma in Dogs: New Therapeutic Advances

AAHA 2016 osteosarcoma findings

We’re biased: osteosarcoma hits home hard with us because it’s the reason why Tripawds began. Paws down, this was our favorite session. It was presented by Dr. Nicole Ehrhart, DVM, DACVS, Professor, Surgical Oncology at Colorado State University’s Flint Animal Cancer Center and Nicola Mason, BVetMed, DACVIM, Associate Professor of Medicine & Pathobiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Ehrhart kicked it off with osteosarcoma news such as:

Osteosarcoma Biopsies: FNA versus Bone Biopsies

According to Dr. Ehrhart, it’s understood that a Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) “will frequently yield enough cellular information to differentiate between neoplasia versus inflammation.” FNAs are preferred over bone biopsies for typical presentations. This biopsy method has about a 95% accuracy rate in determining the presence of osteosarcoma cancer cells, without the painful recovery from a bone biopsy. Dr. Ehrhart added that a bone biopsy should be done when osteosarcoma presentation isn’t in a typical limb location, such as the distal radius or proximal humerus.

Osteosarcoma Staging: PET-CT Scans

A CT of the chest is much more sensitive than x-rays for picking up metastatic disease before amputation surgery. However, the newest gold standard technology for staging osteosarcoma is a PET-CT scan. This diagnostic tool combines both a whole body scan and a CT scan, with costs that are similar to a regular CT or MRI. Colorado State’s Flint Animal Cancer Center has a great explanation of the PET-CT scan diagnostic.

Here are some important facts Dr. Ehrhart shared about the current status of treating osteosarcoma:

Osteosarcoma Palliative Care Options:

  • No Amputation / Pain Management Only: Average survival time 3-5 months. Pain management includes oral medication and bisphosphonates.
  • No Amputation / Limb Salvage Surgery This is a viable option for the right candidate. Unfortunately it comes with a 50% infection rate, “but if the animal gets infected they can live longer,” explains Dr. Ehrhart. Numerous limb sparing studies she’s led prove this finding.
  • No Amputation / Stereotactic Radiation Therapy for Pain Management: Stereotactic Radiation Therapy (SRT) to alleviate pain is becoming more widely available for dogs who aren’t amputation candidates. The advantage of SRT is that pain relief can be achieved in just three high dosage treatments, versus 18-25 low dosage treatments for conventional radiation therapy. According to Dr. Ehrhart, if SRT is given along with chemotherapy (and no amputationd), SRT can still boost average survival times similar to dogs who did undergo amputation and chemotherapy.

Osteosarcoma “Definitive Intent” Treatment (Chemotherapy):

AAHA2016 osteosarcoma findings
Tripawds Spokespup Wyatt (bottom) is featured in Dr. Ehrhart’s presentation!

For osteosarcoma, it’s still agreed that the current gold standard of chemotherapy treatment is still four to six treatments of carboplatin, given three weeks apart.

Sadly, over the last 25 years survival rates have remain unchanged, even for dogs who undergo chemotherapy. Less than 15% of dogs will make it to two years post-diagnosis before metastasis occurs in common places such as the lungs, with other bones being the second most common site.

“We really seem to be stuck at that 300 day survival time mark,” says Dr. Ehrhart. “We’re not making improvements no matter how we slice it.”

Novel Therapies for Canine Osteosarcoma

But take heart: the news about canine osteosarcoma wasn’t all bad. In fact, things are about to change for the better. Dr. Mason’s groundbreaking immunotherapy research, which includes the Her2/neu vaccine that Tripawds member Bentley and Sasha the Bulldog participated in, is leading the way.

Dr. Mason’s vaccine work is explained in more detail in this PDF but in short the Her2/neu osteosarcoma vaccine has shown remarkable survival rates for dogs who have already been diagnosed with osteosarcoma and underwent limb amputation and chemotherapy. Here’s how Dr. Mason explains the vaccine:

The vaccine is composed of a genetically modified bacteria called Listeria that expresses a tumor marker known as Her2/neu. The concept behind the vaccine is that the bacteria will stimulate the patient’s immune system to kill the bacteria and also to kill cells that express Her2/neu. This target is expressed on approximately 40% of canine osteosarcomas. If the immune system is appropriately ‘awakened’ by this vaccine, then it is expected that immune cells will find and eliminate any remaining cancer cells that have avoided the standard chemotherapy” (READ MORE)

The Her2/neu vaccine study showed an astonishing median survival rate of 956 days for 18 dogs with osteosarcoma. Yes, that’s a 956 day average survival rate!

Thanks to the generosity of pet parents who participated in this clinical trial for Dr. Mason’s work, 67% of those 18 dogs in the osteosarcoma vaccine study reached the two year survival milestone!

AAHA 2016 osteosarcoma findings
Sasha is a Tripawds Pin-Up Girldog!

Dr. Mason is also currently studying how to help dogs who aren’t good candidates for amputation, by combining the osteosarcoma vaccine with traditional palliative radiation therapy. The goal is to see if the vaccine can affect the primary osteosarcoma tumor. It’s looking very promising as a palliative treatment for dogs who aren’t amputation candidates.

The Her2/neu vaccine is definitely a game-changer. Along with the amazing, visionary support from Aratana, an animal health company dedicated to developing novel therapeutics for cancer, pain management and other animal conditions, the Her2/neu vaccine will become a reality very soon.

After the #AAHA2016 osteosarcoma breakthroughs presentation we had the honor of briefly meeting Drs. Mason and Ehrhart. They are such brilliant, groundbreaking scientists! When Dr. Ehrhart discussed the osteosarcoma vaccine and said “This is the first time I’ve had this much hope,” our hearts soared with joy! Thanks to the dedication of these awesome veterinarians and Aratana, more dogs with osteosarcoma will thrive longer than ever before.

Stay tuned for more news from #AAHA2016!

Sharing is Caring!

15 thoughts on “News from #AAHA2016: Learn About Canine Osteosarcoma Breakthroughs”

  1. Trying to find information on wether it’s worth getting this vaccine for our dog who has not had chemo or amputation
    We are currently doing pain meds and some other eastern treatments and giving Zoledronate infusions monthly.. we are able to purchase the vaccine from our specialty veterinary center for $1200 each dose with 3 doses needed but are not sure of the benefit since we have chosen not to amputate or do chemo….any input is helpful but please we are not doing chemo and amputation so do not comment on our choice.. only benefits of the vaccine without chemo and amputation

  2. I just wish this vaccine was ready last year I lost my beautiful Chesapeake Bay 9/21/ osteosarcoma last year at 4yrs 10months . Loved him sop

  3. Maybe I missed this info, but was there any rough estimate given for when this vaccine might become available?

  4. My girl Pele was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and had her front leg amputation in January of 2014, followed by four rounds of chemo. It is now 27 months later and she is still swimming, hunting, wrestling, and snuggling. I’m so blessed.

  5. I am reminded daily how incredibly blessed I am to have each day with my tripawd, Bailey.
    She was diagnosed in October 2013 with osteosarcoma in her front leg. Thankfully through the financial gifts granted to us through 2 foundations we were able to afford the amputation. At the time of her amputation the X-rays showed no sign of lung metastasis, which was cautiously accepted since it may have been present, yet not able to detect.
    After her amputation we chose not to give her chemo. We changed her diet and began giving her fish oil supplements, along with daily excursions.
    I enthusiacally tell you that Baily just had her 11th birthday in March. Her amputation was performed in December of 2014, so we are nearly half way to her 3 year post op date!!!
    She lives for her daily walks, plays fetch and even tug of war on 3 legs. She continues to inspire me with her strength. I cherish the time I have with this girl and after reading this article, humbled by the fact how much I have to be grateful for. She’s beating the odd with each and everyday.

  6. Thank you for sharing and God bless both of you! My lab,Dino, was diagnosed in Oct 2014 with hemangiosarcoma. His X-rays and ultrasounds showed no signs that vital organs were affected. We opted for amputation of left hind limb including the joint due to bone invasion. Then he had 5 Rx s of chemo. I also was not accepting the poor prognosis and followed through with. Holistic approach and canine cancer diet found on tripawds site. Also Dino had been on organic aloe (TedsAloe4Pets) daily for 3 yrs which cleared his skin Allergies. Dino is known as a Miracle! No signs of cancer in 18 months and still sharing the Love! Of course I also believe God has answered my prayers! Don’t ever give up. Patti

  7. Hello,

    This is what I have found out in my vast research the last two months since my dog’s lobectomy for histiocytic sarcoma.

    This is what I found out and did and I hope this can help someone else.

    First, I researched and researched some more as I have been a dietitian and went to graduate school.

    I contacted doctors from Washington state university who did the artemissin study and contacted german doctors who did a study with 1 cat and 3 dogs all with stage 3 and stage 4 cancers and cured all of them with artemesia annua. Vets are afraid to try it because it requires iron loading and usually that is very bad for cancer patients. Also, they are not so sure it is the artemisin in the artemesia annua that works on cancer but think it might be other compounds in it.

    I also contacted a famous holistic vet from Hawaii and got my dog on that regiment.

    This is what I did while waiting for the holistic things to arrive in the mail.

    I gave artemisin three times a day 900mg total. I than gave 5 artemix at night in a piece of cheese because artemix has some synthetic derivatives of artemissin that are better for fighting aggressive cancers. I did this for 8 days because apparently this stuff is used to treat malaria but that course of treatment is only for 5 days. In cancer, you want to give it longer, but the absorption drops to 30-40% less so they recommended 8 days on and 8 days off. I only did it for 8 days and than began the holistic route.

    NAC sustain, omega-3, medicinal mushrooms for the lungs functions, CAS options. She had x-rays two months post lobectomy and there are no signs of the lung tumor.

    Get a really good holistic vet for yourself.

    And, read the german study. Iron loading in veterinary sarcoma. They used artemesia annua the full potent form of the herb that artemisin is derived from in that plant. They cured 1 cat and three dogs with aggressive cancers and the cancers never returned. The problem is that usually iron uploading is a big no-no for cancer patients because it will make the cancer much worse. But, the artemesia is tagged onto the iron and the iron cells allow it into the cells kind of like a Trojan horse with a bomb on its back. Once it’s in the cell it produces free radicals that destroy the cancer cell. It leaves the good cells alone. So, you cannot do the holistic anti-oxidant protocol if you are using the artemesia. And, actually, it is the last ditch effort because it is scary to do but if they are going to die anyway because everything begins to go haywire in their bodies, than it’s worth a shot to me anyway.

    Now, this study in Germany was done in 2008 so they say it takes two years to get into studies and than 8 years to come up with a new chemotherapy compound. Yet, no one has done anything about this matter. I guess the drug companies can’t make enough money on a disease that does not affect a great amount of people so they are not interested in it. It is sad. Get something that falls outside that statistical bell curve and you are up the creek without a paddle and have to search and research yourself. It’s awful.

    And, don’t forget the value of praying and asking for help. God hears everything. I prayed for my sweet dog. She only coughed for one hour on a Sunday and I took her to the hospital. They found the tumor. She never coughed again right up to her lobectomy. The internist two days later who is brilliant, could not get a sample and never missed in his career. The surgeon did the lobectomy and wouldn’t if it was histiocytic sarcoma. The very least God did is buy me more time for dog and myself. And, potentially cured her. And gave me more time to find out about the treatment of artemesia annua that they used in Germany. If you think I’ll let my dog die without trying something that can potentially cure her than you really don’t know me. lol Now keep in mind you have to be very careful with the iron uploading and also have to blood work to check levels while you are giving the artemesia so it is scary but it is all we have right now. Until someone gets off their backside and comes up with something, simply telling us like a pall parrot that it is chemo-resistant and there is nothing else that can be done is not an acceptable answer. We need to demand more from them. This stuff also jumps the blood brain barrier so can be used in brain tumors. Powerful! Who knows what a person who has a death sentence from brain cancer might accomplish. Perhaps cure cancer or aids in their lifetime and they die when there is something that can help them? Totally unacceptable!

    I am not a veterinarian or doctor and I am not prescribing this to anyone. I am just saying what I have found out in my research.

    • Thank you so much for taking time to share. Your pup is so lucky to have a great advocate like yourself! Hugs & best wishes for a long, hoppy life ahead to you both.

  8. That is great news about the vaccination. Not so much good news about being stuck with that number of survival days. One day soon we are going to beat this damn disease. I know we will. Then our furbabies who have crossed the bridge will celebrate with us.
    Thank you for sharing this

    michelle & Angel Sassy


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