Hero Spotlight: Benny
We first met Benny, a 19-year-old flea bitten, male Arabian/Quarter Horse Cross with an extensive history of cutaneous melanoma, in December of 2011. Benny’s melanoma had been confirmed by histopathology at the age of 8 and had spread internally and to the prescapular lymph nodes. By the time we met Benny, examination revealed multiple melanomas on the haired body, under the mane, tail, and around the anus. Many of the late stage melanoma lesions contained a dark fluid with numerous melanocytes present. Both the right and left prescapular lymph nodes were palpably enlarged and were shown to contain abnormal melanocytes. There was a large internal melanoma lesion that was blocking defecation. While a recent bacterial infection had been successfully treated with an antibiotic combination, Benny’s melanoma continued to progress, and euthanasia was considered.
Under strict veterinary supervision and control, Benny was the first horse to be treated intra-tumorally with the direct DNA ImmuneFx cancer vaccine (another form of IFx-VET). Over a period of 5 months, a total of 8 plasmid DNA vaccine doses, 4 weekly and 4 monthly, were given intra-tumorally using a needleless injector. Three cutaneous lesions were treated with the DNA vaccine. Treated and untreated lesions were observed for changes in appearance and tumor mass. Upon completion of the 8 dose DNA vaccine protocol in this horse, the size of the injected lesions, on average, were reduced by 40% from the initial size measurements and lesions that were not injected were reduced by 48%, with an overall reduction in total tumor burden of 42%. Tumor regression was also associated with the presence of anti-melanoma antibodies.
During the course of this study, it was determined that all the tumor masses observed stabilized, regressed in size and ceased leaking a dark melanocyte-containing exudates. The consistency of several of the melanoma lesions went from firm to soft. By the end of September, 2012, Benny had gained weight, was alert, and was healthy enough to be ridden. Further, a large tumor in the rectum that had been identified by a colic examination performed in February, 2012, had regressed significantly, although it was still somewhat obstructing defecation. The prescapular lymph nodes were still enlarged, but less prominent than they were at the initiation of this study. Over the course of the next four years, Benny was treated periodically when new cutaneous lesions were cited, and everyone was amazed at exceptional quality of life. No adverse or serious adverse effects were ever seen. During this time, the only melanoma treatment Benny received was the ImmuneFx cancer vaccine. We learned so much from Benny, and his story inspired us to develop multiple forms of cancer treatment for pets.