Research offers hope to canine — and human — cancer patients

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation has teamed up with researchers at Texas A&M University to develop a new treatment for canine lymphoma, and early results are encouraging.

Nearly 80 percent of all dogs afflicted lymphoma die within a year or less.

Lymphoma is the most common form of cancer in dogs, affecting millions of canine companions each year. It is also the most deadly; nearly 80 percent of all dogs diagnosed with lymphoma pass within a year or less.

The innovative treatment at the center of the study involves strategic T-cell therapy. T-cells, which are the white blood cells of the dog’s immune system, are taken from the dog prior to chemotherapy treatments. The dog’s T-cells are then used as post-chemo session immunity builders. This method of immunotherapy would, in essence, give the dog’s system what it needs to fight, killing off any cancerous cells that remain after chemotherapy treatments and restoring the dog’s ability to fight off infections.

Texas A&M researchers have found that, so far, dogs undergoing the T-cell therapy have survived about five times longer than those who received chemotherapy treatments alone.

Researchers are enthusiastic about current survival rates in their canine patients and are hopeful that their work will go on to benefit humans someday in the near future. Dogs, like humans, are susceptible to both environmental and genetic factors that lead to cancer, making this study a promising step towards better treatment for both canine and human cancer patients alike. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved clinical trials in human T-cell immunotherapy.