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Does your Tripawd dog have lung metastasis from osteosarcoma, or another type of cancer? If so, you should know about the Minimally Invasive Metastasectomy in Canines (MIMIC) Treatment study. It's happening at ETHOS Veterinary Health in San Diego, California, and it's about to change treatment options in a big way. Here's why.
Now, There's A Better Way to Remove Lung Metastasis in Dogs and People
You may remember meeting Whiskey, the Tripawd, a young pup diagnosed with bone cancer and soon afterward, lung metastasis.
Unfortunately his diagnosis was identical to the thousands of dogs diagnosed with this cancer every year. In almost every case, cancerous lung nodules appear not long after amputation surgery to remove the primary tumor. Sometimes metastasis happens only a few months after amputation, occasionally it happens a few years later. In all cases, the mets (nodules) grow and interfere with breathing, stamina, and mobility. Quality of life degrades. The dog is eventually euthanized because of the disease.
Until recently, when dogs like Tripawds founder Jerry, or Jabba were diagnosed with osteosarcoma lung metastasis, treatment options were depressingly limited. Pet parents could chose palliative (comfort) care, or a highly invasive chest surgery called a lung lobectomy. This is when surgeons open a dog's chest, crack the breast bone (sternum), and go in to remove the lung nodules. It's an expensive procedure that most people are not willing to do for a disease with such poor outcomes in dogs.
Thankfully, the MIMIC study is giving pet parents a better way to remove lung metastasis in dogs.
Minimally Invasive Metastasectomy in Canines (MIMIC) Treatment Gives Bonus Time to Whiskey, Other Tripawd Dogs with Lung mets
The Minimally Invasive Metastasectomy in Canines (MIMIC) Study is currently enrolling participants in Southern California. It's led by Dr. Chris Thomson, a board-certified veterinary surgeon with a focus on surgical oncology treatment. The treatment is a non-invasive procedure called a "thoracoscopy." Benefits include a low risk to the patient, and a recovery time that lasts only a few days. Whiskey's MIMIC success story is one of many happy outcomes happening through the study.
Removing lung metastasis in people with osteosarcoma already shows that better long-term survival odds are possible. Thomson's team is out to show that doing the same in dogs can be equally beneficial. "In kids if you go forward with a surgical resection of those metastatic lesions, you have a much higher chance of that five year survival, versus just putting those patients into a new chemo trial or a new kind of treatment without surgery. And so we're trying to push for that in dogs."
Until recently, a lung lobectomy was the only option to remove those metastatic lesions in people -- or dogs. But not anymore.
"With thoracoscopy we can actually do just a couple of very small incisions typically somewhere between three to four incisions that are about the width of your pinky," says Thomson. "We get into the thoracic cavity and then essentially go in and flex those nodules out of the lungs."
The quick recovery time and long-term survival odds are giving dogs like Whiskey a second chance to enjoy life with the people they love. If your dog has lung metastasis and traveling to California is possible, MIMIC is worth looking into.
The MIMIC study is open to nearly any dog with cancerous lung metastasis (hemangiosarcoma is excluded).
Diagnostics and surgery is done at the ETHOS San Diego location, where the majority of costs are covered for the patient. Pet parents should expect to stay about a week for the diagnostics and surgery. Afterward, Thomson can work with a pet's regular vet if follow-up CT scans and other related care happens back home. However, those costs are not covered by the study.
"It has so much potential from a minimal impact on the patient's quality of life," says Dr. Thompson. "If we can prove that it has a benefit to the quantity of life, I think it's gonna really change the way we treat metastatic lesions in osteosarcoma."
Learn about the Minimally Invasive Metastasectomy in Canines (MIMIC) Treatment study
Read Whiskey's story on the ETHOS North County blog
Check out Whiskey's Tripawds Blog story!
15 March 2023
So far, yes. We just interviewed Dr. Thomas and Whiskey's mom last Friday, and will have that podcast on tripawd talk real soon. Dr. Thomas mentioned that the procedure is done with great success in humans all the time. Until now it's hasn't been tried in dogs, but so far 9 dogs have had it done successfully.
Thanks for asking. It really is an amazing therapy that I hope will become standard practice when lung mets develop.