Every day we are faced with pets that are in tremendous pain and suffering from cancer. And yet, they still warm our hearts and touch our souls. Our heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
he · ro
‘hi (ə) rô/
1. a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities
Hero Spotlight: Jaxson
Jaxson, a nine year-old Shetland Sheepdog, was diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the urinary bladder in April 2012 by his veterinarian, Dr. James Barrie at Sunshine Animal Clinic, Tampa, FL.
Jaxson started IFx-VET therapy in June 2012 and received nine vaccines between June and January 2013. Jaxson was asymptomatic during and after treatment for a total of 14 months. Prior to treatment, Jaxson had been suffering with urgency to urinate and blood in his urine. In September 2013, Jaxson had recurrence of these symptoms. Radiographic examination revealed that Jaxson’s bladder tumor had increased in size, and the prognosis was poor.
Determined to give her beloved pet and friend the best possible care, Jaxson’s parent decided to pursue another round of IFx-VET due to the positive outcome seen previously. Jaxson received his 10th vaccine in October of 2013, 15 months after his original diagnosis. He received seven subsequent doses. During this time, Jaxson experienced occasional blood in his urine, however his overall quality of life did not decline due to his cancer.
Current treatments for TCC include NSAID therapy, surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. With these therapies patient usually live 6-12 months. IFx-VET with concurrent NSAID therapy helped Jaxson live two years past his initial diagnosis. Jaxson exceeded best expected outcome by one year. That is equivalent to seven people years! In addition to this incredible extension of Jaxson’s life, more importantly, he sustained a good quality of life throughout and no side effects from the treatment.
Jaxson’s is a true success story. Not only did he outlive his original prognosis, he was given extra time with his parent that would have not happened without IFx-VET. Jaxson’s legacy will continue to live on through the knowledge he has provided to the fields of veterinary and human oncology.
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.
Hero Spotlight: Ivy
Ivy, a 10-year-old female Golden Retriever, had been diagnosed with lymphoma a year prior to her first IFx-VET treatment. Ivy had stage IV multi-centric indolent B cell lymphoma, a slow growing form of lymphoma for which standard of care chemotherapy has little value. Ivy’s condition had progressed to the point where just about all of her lymph nodes were affected as well as her spleen. A fine needle aspirate was taken from one of her lymph nodes, and the lymphoma cells were expanded in our laboratory.
The slow growing nature of Ivy’s lymphoma was not replicated once her tumor cells were placed into culture. The cells replicated to such an extent that we were able to make numerous doses of vaccine. Since Ivy was only the second dog to receive IFx-VET, no one knew if continual vaccination would be good or bad, so once Ivy began to thrive, the doses were continued. Even with over 30 doses of IFx-VET, no adverse or serious adverse effects were noted. In fact, Ivy’s lymph nodes began to shrink and five months after treatment began, ultrasound revealed that even the lesions in the spleen had disappeared. Once Ivy began the IFx-VET regimen, she lived for two years with no evidence of disease and passed away due to unrelated causes. IFx-VET was the only treatment Ivy received for her lymphoma.
While relatively rare, slow growing indolent lymphoma is a very good candidate for treatment with IFx-VET. There are several reasons for this. One is that standard of care chemotherapy focuses its mutagenic power on rapidly dividing cells, which makes it effective against aggressive lymphomas but not indolent lymphoma. Two, the lymph nodes of dogs with indolent lymphoma are morphologically more intact than with aggressive lymphoma, and the dogs are better able to mount a clinically beneficial immune response with IFx-VET. Thirdly, the slow growing nature of indolent lymphoma gives the immune system more time to respond to IFx-VET and kill the billions of cancer cells throughout the body.
Ivy’s success has continued to inspire us to take on canine indolent lymphoma, a notoriously difficult cancer to tackle. We believe that it is so important to continue developing new ways of treating canine cancers.
Hero Spotlight: Mup
Meet Muffin, better known as Mup. Toward the end of 2015, Mup was introduced to Veterinary Oncology Services by his anxious parent. This particular pet parent just happened to be one of our USDA consultants who has successfully guided Morphogenesis and Veterinary Oncology Services through the USDA processes for several years now. Unfortunately, the family’s 10-year old Pomeranian had just been diagnosed with inoperable bladder cancer that occupied 80% of his bladder. Since there was no standard care available for Mup besides Piroxicam, the parent wanted to know if Veterinary Oncology Services’ IFx-VET would be available for Mup.
Treatment began for Mup on November 8, 2015 and was administered by his veterinarian, Dr. Janine Chapman of Portage Animal Hospital in Portage, MI. By November 21, ultrasounds revealed a notable 40-50% reduction in tumor size. According to the pet parent, “I know that this is likely not a magic bullet – but there is no doubt we are improving the quality of his life at least for the moment. Thanks all, I always loved working on novel technology, and the rules and regulations to make it available – but I never anticipated using on my family pet…Thanks again for all your support!”
On November 23, Dr. Chapman wrote, “Happy Thanksgiving, All! This has truly been exciting to watch unfold. Ultrasonographically, the tumor appears to be ‘disintegrating’ for lack of a better term. Tissue can be seen cascading off the main tumor bulk – it’s pretty amazing. Thank you for introducing me to this innovation!”
Mup continued to respond well to the transitional cell carcinoma IFx-VET and completed his dosing regimen. However, in early March, Mup was diagnosed with a new tumor, anal sac carcinoma. The tumor was debulked and a new IFx-VET vaccine was derived. The administration of this vaccine went smoothly and seemed to prevent the tumor from growing back at the surgical site. Mup survived another two months with a good quality of life. The pet parent noted, “You have extended Mups life for many months (and it was a great quality of life) and that is so appreciated!” Mup remained “a little bundle of energy” even though he was battling two types of cancer.
Thank you Mup for being your parent’s “Miracle Dog” and for being our Hero!
Hero Spotlight: Sara
Sara, a 10-year-old female Domestic Shorthair was diagnosed with advanced fibrosarcoma in one extremity. There were metastatic lesions in her lungs which were evident in radiographic images. Sara’s prognosis was dire. The lesion was debulked several times, but no. From the tumor mass, an autologous whole cell IFx-VET vaccine was made.
That Sara’s immune system started fighting the tumors was evidenced by the increase in antibody response to the tumor viewed by ELISA. In fact, antibodies were made to multiple tumor antigens when viewed by Western Blot analysis. Within a few months, the thoracic lesions had completely resolved. Sara survived an additional 13 months (that’s about 4 human years) and was euthanized for other causes. We were also able to boost Sara’s IFx-VET vaccine with the direct DNA injection form of ImmuneFx to good effect. No other therapy was given prior to or during the IFx-VET treatments. No adverse or serious adverse effects were observed from the therapy. Sara’s journey was only the beginning in our quest to find new ways of treating cats with cancer.
Hero Spotlight: Alphabet Soup
Alphabet Soup had to fight for his 1996 Breeder’s Cup Classic championship and he is still fighting. This time, this 1,200-pound male American Thoroughbred with an impressive string of titles is fighting melanoma. Equine Melanoma can strike horses of any breed as they age, but it is more prevalent in ‘gray’ horses.
After Alphabet Soup retired from racing, he sired 48 stakes winners, among them namesakes: Egg Drop, Alphabet Kisses, and Alpha Bettor. During their careers, Alphabet Soup and his progeny have amassed purse earning of more than $44 million. From his fans’ blogs, we learned that he stood the 2015 breeding season for an advertised fee of $3,500. At the ripe age of 25, Alphabet Soup is now retired from breeding duties and is pensioned to Old Friends retirement facility near Georgetown, Kentucky.
Alphabet Soup is being treated for melanoma by Bryan M. Waldridge, DVM, MS DABVP, DACVIM at Park Equine Hospital at Woodford in Versailles, KY. In a recent email, Dr. Waldridge reported, “Alphabet Soup got his fourth vaccination (IFx-VET) yesterday. He is doing wonderful! I have no doubt that this treatment is helping him tremendously. I estimate that the masses are 50% smaller than when we started. I have weekly pictures, but because there is not much perspective, you really cannot appreciate how much the masses have shrunk.”
On and off the racetrack, Alphabet Soup is a winner to us. The Veterinary Oncology Team is cheering you on to win this most important race against cancer.
Hero Spotlight: Ellie
Most people think of dachshunds as adorable little sausage/wiener dogs and may not realize that their long body and short, stubby legs, long nose and unusually large paddle-shaped front paws make them extremely good at scenting, chasing and flushing out burrow-dwelling animals. Their breeding also gives them great determination, stubbornness and ferocity.
Ellie, a lively little 12 year-old, 13 pound, black and tan, longhaired, female-spayed dachshund was diagnosed with Stage V B cell lymphoma with bone marrow involvement on September 13, 2013 by oncologist, Jennifer Locke, DVM, Diplomate, ACVIM at SEVO-Med Southeast Veterinary Oncology and Internal Medicine in Orange Park, FL. A lymph node sample was taken and shipped to Veterinary Oncology Services for IFx-VET vaccine preparation. In the meantime, Ellie received what is known as a modified Wisconsin chemotherapy protocol. Ellie completed her chemotherapy and began receiving her IFx-VET treatments in November, 2013. Once her vaccine doses were complete, Ellie received six doses of maintenance chemotherapy treatments rotating between vincristine and Cytoxan.
The course of chemotherapy treatments Ellie received is common for the treatment of aggressive B cell lymphoma. However, the amazing thing is that between her chemotherapy and vaccine treatments, Ellie only recently relapsed. That is three years in remission (as of this writing September, 2016) with excellent quality of life! Ellie’s mom and current oncologist, Zachary Neumann, DVM, MS Diplomate, ACEVIM (Oncology) have requested a second round of vaccine, which has already been delivered. Ellie, now almost 16, has certainly lived up to her lineage of great determination, stubbornness and ferocity in fighting such an uphill battle against Stage V lymphoma!