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Bichon treated in cancer hope

Doctors at a Cleveland Clinic have successfully treated aggressive cancer in a dog, but without toxic side effects or physical discomfort. While this achievement gives hope to dog owners with ailing pets, it also could lead to new efforts to treat cancer in humans.

The announcement came from Joseph A. Bauer, PhD, of the Center for Hematology & Oncology Molecular Therapeutics at the Cleveland Clinic, at the 237th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Salt Lake City , Utah.

Bauer’s team worked with a Bichon Frise, a 10-year-old male named Oscar, who suffered from an aggressive form of cancer called anal sac adenocarcinoma. Despite chemotherapy and radiation, the dog had shown no improvement and could not walk. Doctors had given him about three more months to live.

Bauer’s team gave Oscar a new cancer-killing drug called nitrosylcobalamin (NO-Cbl). Only two weeks after beginning the drug, the Bichon was improving and able to walk.

The NO-Cbl drug is made of a cancer-killing substance called nitric oxide, which is attached to vitamin B12. Receptors on a cell's surface attract the vitamin, which then enters the cell. Inside the cancer cell, the nitric oxide is released, killing the cancer cell from within.

Bauer’s team also reports encouraging results in two other canine patients. Nine months of NO-Cbl treatment shrank a spinal tumor in a 6-year-old golden retriever by 40 percent, and the dog, who once suffered severe nerve damage to a hind leg, is now able to go on two-mile walks. The treatment also significantly reduced inoperable thyroid cancer in a 13-year-old Giant Schnauzer. Within 10 weeks, the dog’s tumor had shrunk by 77 percent. Neither dog suffered from negative side effects.

Currently, the medical team is working with 10 dogs, all of which will be tracked for a year with the cooperation of their own veterinarians. Although mice are typically used in cancer research (they are genetically bred to develop tumors), dogs - like their human counterparts - spontaneously develop tumors. The fact that people and dogs are genetically similar may help the drug's chance of getting through the FDA’s strict drug approval chain so Bauer can begin tests on human cancer patients.

Of course, Bauer, owner of a two-year-old beagle, also hopes the drug will be available in the future for canine patients who need it.


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