Man’s Best Friend May Conquer Man’s Most Feared Illnesses, Say Texas A&M Veterinarians

May 9th, 2012   •   no comments   

It could be that man’s best friend might one day be man’s best healer.

Dogs are among the best animals when it comes to providing models for better medical treatments in humans, and with more than 77 million dogs in the United States alone, it’s another way the human-animal bond has become closer than anyone had ever dreamed. Researchers at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences are looking into ways how dogs – and several other animal types – can provide a variety of medical benefits to people, ranging from bone cancer studies to spinal cord injuries and others.

“Dogs can be ideal models to study,” says Theresa Fossum, director of the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies.

“This is especially true when it comes to certain types of cancer. Cancers in dogs, such as bone cancer, lymphoma and many other types of tumors, are almost identical to those same kinds found in humans and they tend to develop faster and run their course quicker, so it’s an ideal way to see if a certain therapy will work. Dogs also tend to be better predictors of how new cancer drugs and medical devices can work. By studying cancer treatments in dogs, we can come up with better and more improved ways to treat cancer in humans and animals.”

Bone cancer in dogs, Fossum explains, is almost identical to human bone cancer. To get a big picture of just how the disease forms and progresses in dogs, Fossum has helped to create the Texas Veterinary Cancer Registry, a database of treatment information.
“We want to get the word out to dog owners that this service is available and it can help their pet and quite possibly, their next door neighbor one day,” she adds. “There is no charge to register your dog and we encourage pet owners to do this. The information we get can be very useful in canine treatments.

“People may not know it, but it costs $3 billion and up for a drug to be created and tested in many trials before it is offered to the public. With more information, we believe it’s possible to cut those drug development costs way down.”

Cancer is no stranger to dogs – in fact, about 1 in every 4 dogs will eventually get it, and breeds such as Boxers and Golden Retrievers are especially prone to bone cancer, she adds. “Larger dogs are more likely to develop certain cancers, but any dog – or cat – can suffer from the disease,” she notes.

Treatments, as in humans, can be very expensive, with costs easily ranging from $5,000-$10,000 and up, “but it’s possible some cases can be paid for if they are eligible for study in a clinical trial. Also, by getting more information on dogs who suffer from cancer, we can learn better ways to fight the disease and hopefully one day the costs will go down dramatically,” Fossum says.

Fossum adds that eventually, she would like to develop a similar program to find treatments for other diseases that dogs and humans share such as diabetes and heart and kidney disease.
Pet owners – and even other veterinarians – are encouraged to register their dogs in the program.

Jonathan Levine, an assistant professor in the Small Animal Clinic who specializes in spinal cord injuries, agrees that dogs with naturally occurring diseases may offer promise in advancing human therapies. He has received a $900,000 Department of Defense grant to develop non-invasive treatments and therapies for spinal cord injuries in dogs.

“We hope the results will translate into successful therapies and treatments for humans – that’s our goal,” he says.
“Since most of these injuries happen naturally, they are more diverse,” he notes “The affected dogs are out in the environment, they’re not all the same breed, and the injuries don’t happen the same way. So the diversity probably gives a little advantage exploring theories into the possible treatment of dogs and humans with similar spinal cord injuries.”

He adds that the Defense Department was particularly interested in this type of research because of the possible implications it may have on troops with spinal cord injuries. Such injuries in humans can be physically debilitating, and also incredibly expensive. Studies show that a person who has sustained a spinal cord injury at age 25 may face medical expenses of $729,000 to $3.2 million over a lifetime.

Levine says clinical trials will be performed on young dogs who suffer from a severe disk problem called canine thoracolumbar intervertebral disk herniation, a disease that is very similar to spinal cord injuries in humans. Dachsunds appear to suffer from the disease most often, and this breed will represent about half of the cases.

Other veterinarians, such as oncology specialist Heather Wilson-Robles, are conducting similar research with human-animal connections. Her work involves lymphoma, melanoma, mammary and other types of cancer and canine tumors, and it has been funded several times by the American Kennel Club and the National Institutes for Health.

“In many cases, the cancers we see in dogs are almost identical to those in humans, so dogs are a great predictor for us,” she explains. “For example, bone cancer in children and dogs is very similar – it results in about a 90 percent chance of death in a dog, and about 60 percent in children.

“Melanoma in dogs is usually not caused by sunshine, but the behavior of the cancer is similar in both humans and dogs,” she adds. “With mammary cancer, women get breast cancer, dogs get mammary cancer and the two are very alike. We know that not having children increases the risk in both species.”

She and Levine have created a website detailing clinical trials they have conducted.

Levine says that the type of research “we do involves a lot of trial and error, many times over,” he notes.

“It’s like Thomas Edison and the thousands of attempts he made before he got the light bulb to work. With dogs, spinal cord injuries are much like those in people – the damage is the same, the MRIs we do on both look pretty much the same, and on and on.

“In the last 10 to 15 years, there has been very limited success in treating these types of injuries. But we think a major breakthrough is possible in the years to come, and again, our ultimate goal is to see if what we do is successful in dogs, it can also be successful in humans.”

(Read the original)

Man’s Best Friend May Conquer Man’s Most Feared Illnesses, Say Texas A&M Veterinarians

May 1st, 2012   •   no comments   

Fossum

It could be that man’s best friend might one day be man’s best healer.

Dogs are among the best animals when it comes to providing models for better medical treatments in humans, and with more than 77 million dogs in the United States alone, it’s another way the human-animal bond has become closer than anyone had ever dreamed. Researchers at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences are looking into ways how dogs – and several other animal types – can provide a variety of medical benefits to people, ranging from bone cancer studies to spinal cord injuries and others.

“Dogs can be ideal models to study,” says Theresa Fossum, director of the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies. “This is especially true when it comes to certain types of cancer. Cancers in dogs, such as bone cancer, lymphoma and many other types of tumors, are almost identical to those same kinds found in humans and they tend to develop faster and run their course quicker, so it’s an ideal way to see if a certain therapy will work. Dogs also tend to be better predictors of how new cancer drugs and medical devices can work. By studying cancer treatments in dogs, we can come up with better and more improved ways to treat cancer in humans and animals.”

Bone cancer in dogs, Fossum explains, is almost identical to human bone cancer. To get a big picture of just how the disease forms and progresses in dogs, Fossum has helped to create the Texas Veterinary Cancer Registry, a database of treatment information.

“We want to get the word out to dog owners that this service is available and it can help their pet and quite possibly, their next door neighbor one day,” she adds. “There is no charge to register your dog and we encourage pet owners to do this. The information we get can be very useful in canine treatments.

“People may not know it, but it costs $3 billion and up for a drug to be created and tested in many trials before it is offered to the public. With more information, we believe it’s possible to cut those drug development costs way down.”

Cancer is no stranger to dogs – in fact, about one in every four dogs will eventually get it, and breeds such as boxers and golden retrievers are especially prone to bone cancer, Fossum adds.

“Larger dogs are more likely to develop certain cancers, but any dog – or cat – can suffer from the disease,” she notes.

Treatments, as in humans, can be very expensive, with costs easily ranging from $5,000-$10,000 and up, “but it’s possible some cases can be paid for if they are eligible for study in a clinical trial. Also, by getting more information on dogs who suffer from cancer, we can learn better ways to fight the disease and hopefully one day the costs will go down dramatically,” Fossum says.

Fossum adds that eventually, she would like to develop a similar program to find treatments for other diseases that dogs and humans share such as diabetes and heart and kidney disease.

Pet owners – and even other veterinarians – are encouraged to register their dogs in the program by visiting here.

Jonathan Levine, an assistant professor in the Small Animal Clinic who specializes in spinal cord injuries, agrees that dogs with naturally occurring diseases may offer promise in advancing human therapies. He has received a $900,000 Department of Defense grant to develop non-invasive treatments and therapies for spinal cord injuries in dogs.

“We hope the results will translate into successful therapies and treatments for humans – that’s our goal,” he says. “Since most of these injuries happen naturally, they are more diverse.

“The affected dogs are out in the environment, they’re not all the same breed, and the injuries don’t happen the same way. So the diversity probably gives a little advantage exploring theories into the possible treatment of dogs and humans with similar spinal cord injuries.”

He adds the Defense Department was particularly interested in this type of research because of the possible implications it may have on troops with spinal cord injuries. Such injuries in humans can be physically debilitating and also incredibly expensive. Studies show that a person who has sustained a spinal cord injury at age 25 may face medical expenses of $729,000 to $3.2 million over a lifetime.

Levine says clinical trials will be performed on young dogs who suffer from a severe disk problem called canine thoracolumbar intervertebral disk herniation, a  disease that is very similar to spinal cord injuries in humans. Dachsunds appear to suffer from the disease most often, and this breed will represent about half of the cases.

Other veterinarians, such as oncology specialist Heather Wilson-Robles, are conducting similar research with human-animal connections. Her work involves lymphoma, melanoma, mammary and other types of cancer and canine tumors, and it has been funded several times by the American Kennel Club and the National Institutes for Health.

“In many cases, the cancers we see in dogs are almost identical to those in humans, so dogs are a great predictor for us,” she explains. “For example, bone cancer in children and dogs is very similar – it results in about a 90 percent chance of death in a dog, and about 60 percent in children.

“Melanoma in dogs is usually not caused by sunshine, but the behavior of the cancer is similar in both humans and dogs,” she adds. “With mammary cancer, women get breast cancer, dogs get mammary cancer and the two are very alike. We know that not having children increases the risk in both species.”

She and Levine have created a website detailing clinical trials they have conducted.

Levine says that the type of research “we do involves a lot of trial and error, many times over.”

“It’s like Thomas Edison and the thousands of attempts he made before he got the light bulb to work. With dogs, spinal cord injuries are much like those in people – the damage is the same, the MRIs we do on both look pretty much the  same, and on and on.

“In the last 10 to 15 years, there has been very limited success in treating these types of injuries. But we think a major breakthrough is possible in the years to come, and again, our ultimate goal is to see if what we do is successful in dogs, it can also be successful in humans.”

Canine Cancer Studies Yield Human Insights

February 8th, 2012   •   no comments   

By (@JaneEAllenABC) and LANA ZAK, ABC News Medical Unit
Feb. 8 2012

Some of the most promising insights into cancer are coming from pet dogs thanks to emerging studies exploring remarkable biological similarities between man and his best friend.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs. Every year, millions of dogs develop lymphomas and malignancies of the bones, blood vessels, skin and breast. An increasing group of researchers recognize cancer-stricken canines as a natural study population, especially given owners’ storied devotion to their canine companions’ well-being.

Because dogs age many times more rapidly than humans and their cancers progress more quickly, canine cancer studies produce quicker results. Veterinary oncologists talk in terms of “one- to two-year survival times” for their pet patients, compared to survival times of five to 10 years that oncologists discuss for their human patients, said Dr. Melissa Paoloni, a veterinary oncologist with the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research in Bethesda, Md.

A consortium of 20 veterinary centers created by the NCI and overseen by Paoloni aims to speed the development of better therapies and new strategies for treating and preventing human cancers. At the same time, some institutions, such as the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, are independently teaming up on their own to share human and animal findings.

One beneficiary of that collaboration has been Rowdy, an 8-year-old Great Pyrenees dog diagnosed in August with bone cancer.

Rowdy might have undergone chemotherapy and amputation of his front leg had his owner opted for conventional therapy. But Kate Cordts of San Antonio lost another dog to the same disease and assiduously researched experimental treatments for canine osteosarcoma.

She enrolled Rowdy in a clinical trial at Texas A&M, where veterinary cancer specialists delivered experimental radiation therapy directly into his diseased leg, followed by chemotherapy.

Six months later, Rowdy is living up to his name, thanks to a regimen that not only saved the leg, but also might one day help children diagnosed with the same malignancy.

“I think it’s kind of wonderful,” Cordts, 58, a librarian, told ABCNews.com today. “What more could I ask?”

The specialist who treated Rowdy supports more such studies.

“One of the great advantages of doing clinical trials in dogs is that owners can elect to do experimental therapy instead of conventional from the very beginning,” Dr. Terry Fossum, the Texas A&M veterinarian who administered Rowdy’s limb-sparing, potentially life-saving treatment, told ABC News.

People, in contrast, typically undergo experimental treatments only after conventional treatments have failed.

Paoloni said the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium has so far conducted 11 clinical trials. Its pilot study of just 31 dogs demonstrated that scientists could conduct sophisticated molecular profiling of tumors and, within five days, use it to create a personalized treatment plan based on an individual dog’s profile, Paoloni told ABCNews.com. The study stands at the cutting edge of personalized medicine, she said.

Investigators currently are designing three early-stage trials of this approach for larger numbers of dogs with melanoma, osteosarcoma and angiosarcoma. She expects those to begin late this year or early in 2013.

Since the identification of the dog genome in 2005, researchers have been identifying genetic changes associated with dog cancers and comparing them to changes “in corresponding human cancers” to figure out where there is overlap, said Dr. Matthew Breen, an associate professor of genomics at NC State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, N.C., one of the consortium schools. By being able to “tease out the major genes associated with cancers in other species and then assess the role of these genes,” scientists have found changes in canine lymphoma that can predict how well that dog will respond to standard chemotherapy, a finding that could potentially benefit as many as 300,000 dogs diagnosed each year.

By seeing if the same changes in human lymphoma can predict treatment success, “this translation from dog to human” might improve doctors’ ability to predict the responses of “up to 70,000 Americans” diagnosed with lymphoma each year, he said.

Assuring these programs can thrive depends upon making pet owners aware of clinical trials. Texas A&M’s Fossum, who helped establish the Texas Veterinary Cancer Registry, told ABC News she hopes to make the registry a national resource linking more pet owners with clinical trials.

In the meantime, word is slowly getting around that clinical trials can be a win-win for pets and people.

Jack Sevey Jr. created the website MyCancerPet.com in January 2011 after his 5-year-old boxer Bull died from T-cell lymphoma. Sevey wanted to create an online community for fellow owners of cancer-stricken pets and also steer them to helpful resources. Those include lists of clinical trials compiled by several organizations: the AKC Canine Health Foundation, Animal Clinical Investigation, the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research, the Morris Animal Foundation and the Veterinary Cancer Society.

Canine clinical trials have the potential to accelerate progress in the fight against cancer, helping “patients with and without fur,” Paoloni told ABCNews.com Tuesday. “All of our interests are geared to learning something from the dog that’s applied to human patients.”

ABC News’ Serena Marshall contributed to this report.

(Read the original on ABC News.com)

TVCR on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer

February 8th, 2012   •   no comments   

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Rowdy’s and the TVCR’s story is spreading!

January 31st, 2012   •   no comments   

Yesterday’s article about the TVCR and the work we do to help advance veterinary cancer research to help find a cure for pets and people has been published through several media outlets.  Check out the article where you like!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cancer research could help dogs, cats – and humans

January 30th, 2012   •   no comments   

Houston Chronicle
By Todd Ackerman
Published 10:27 p.m., Sunday, January 29, 2012

Leading Texas veterinarians are mobilizing to enlist pets in the testing of experimental cancer therapies, a potential benefit to not just dogs and cats but people.

The veterinarians recently set up a registry they hope will connect pet owners and cancer researchers and show that diseased pets – dogs in particular – are better predictors of the efficacy of new cancer drugs and devices in people than mice, oncologists’ favorite test subject historically.

Rowdy and Owner, Kate Cordts

“Dogs may be man’s best friend in more ways than one,” says Dr. Theresa Fossum, a Texas A&M professor of veterinary surgery and founder of the Texas Veterinary Cancer Registry. “Because they suffer from cancers that are nearly identical to those in humans, but quicker to run their course, they can speed up and make more reliable the process of determining whether a therapy will work.”

Veterinarians are just starting to get the ear of cancer researchers, who don’t reflexively think of naturally occurring disease models that go home with their owner, Fossum said. The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas recently rejected a grant application because “housing the dogs would be so expensive,” says Fossum. The application will be resubmitted to specify that the treated pets would remain with their owners.

Texas veterinary oncologists are hoping the registry can help change attitudes by providing a database of dogs and cats diagnosed with cancer that could be candidates for clinical research. The registry identified its first patient in November, an 8-year-old Great Pyrenees with bone cancer.

Experimental treatment

Instead of the standard treatment, amputation, Rowdy got an experimental procedure: radiation injected into 22 tiny holes drilled directly into the bone cancer. Two months later, Rowdy’s owner reports he is running around symptom-free, though Fossum stresses the six-month check-up will be the big test.

The procedure’s success in a dog trial would bode well for people with the disease – particularly children. Osteosarcoma, Rowdy’s cancer, is the sixth most common form of childhood cancer. One in 3 diagnosed with the disease die from it.

The idea of using animals’ naturally developing cancers as models for human disease goes back a decade but has never taken off.

“It’s a great concept, but the problem has always been the lack of infrastructures pairing researchers and patients,” said Dr. Peggy Tinkey, chair of veterinary medicine and surgery at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

That’s where the new cancer registry comes in. Owners of dogs and cats diagnosed with the disease are being asked to register their pet at http://texasvetcancerregistry.com, already up and running though the official launch isn’t scheduled until this spring. Registry staff will contact the pet’s vet for more information, then look for potential research matches.

There should be no shortage of candidates. There are 77.5 million owned dogs in the United States and a fourth will develop cancer – including those in the bone, breast, pancreas, liver, prostate, lung and skin. Veterinarians report that owners increasingly want to treat them, at around $5,000, but the options can be limited.

The technology used in Rowdy’s case was pioneered at a Houston company, Valco Instruments, that makes very small, precise instruments used in laboratories. After his dog was diagnosed with bone cancer, the company’s president developed a drill that can open holes the size of human hairs to deliver radioactive isotopes that pinpoint the tumor and don’t damage surrounding tissue.

“It sounded perfect,” said Rowdy’s owner, Kate Cordts, a librarian in San Antonio. “Rowdy’s such an active, happy-go-lucky dog – I just didn’t have the heart for amputation.”

Just the beginning

For all their benefits, pets won’t ever replace lab mice as cancer test models. For one thing, mice are perfect specimens for engineering genetic impairments and studying precisely targeted genes or pathways suspected to be involved in a disease. For another, they’re better for establishing initial safety, necessary before experimenting in pets.

Still, Fossum thinks pets can play an important role. She notes that one reason it costs $1.2 billion, probably more, to get a new drug on the market is that most fail in clinical trials. Mice simply aren’t good disease predictors, she says, not like dogs and cats, which live with people, have intact immune systems and probably develop cancer for the same reasons.

The pet cancer registry is just the beginning. Fossum has plans, once she gets grant money, to launch pet registries for heart and kidney disease too.

(Read original article.)

Pet cancer registry could help your cat, dog and humans, too

December 16th, 2011   •   no comments   

By Mary Ann Roser | Friday, December 16, 2011, 10:49 AM

If your dog or cat has cancer, there might be an experimental drug that could help your pet, and one day aid humans with cancer.

You can find out more about your pet’s cancer and about clinical trials for drugs and other experimental therapies by registering with a new statewide database in Texas. The Texas Veterinary Cancer Registry is the brain child of Dr. Terry Fossum, (pictured at right) who holds a chair in veterinary surgery at Texas A&M University.

The venture, launched a few weeks ago, involves the nonprofit CARE Foundation, Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and the Texas Veterinary Oncology Group.

“If we can identify these animals and get them into treatment, it’s really a benefit for these animals, and it’s a benefit for humans because we can have more predictive models” on drugs that might help certain cancers, Fossum said.

Registries also help advance research. They are important sources of data for diseases and therapies.

Fossum said this registry will also give pet owners information they might not otherwise get.

Last month, she performed a novel surgery on an 8-year-old Great Pyrenees named Rowdy with bone cancer from the San Antonio area. She was able to save Rowdy’s leg from amputation, the regular treatment for that type of cancer.

It takes years to develop new medicines for humans, and often, the medicines are tested in mice before going to human trials. Fossum said that testing in dogs and cats could lead to “more effective and efficient clinical trials in humans.”

If you have a dog or cat diagnosed with cancer and want to register your pet in the database, go to this page.

Fossum plans to launch a heart disease registry for pets next, with the same goal — putting owners in touch with cutting-edge therapies and advancing knowledge into human treatments.

Read the original here.

 

Celebrity’s Pup Has Cancer: See her story Here

November 22nd, 2011   •   no comments   

In case you missed it, on Yahoo! they told a story about a celebrity’s dog that has cancer. ‘E! News Now’ host Ashlan Gorse has a beautiful Siberian Husky who was recently diagnosed with cancer. As far as we can tell, the dog’s treatment was fairly standard and she’s doing well.

Gorse has some great advice for all pet owners.

Spreading the Message

Gorse hopes her story will make pet owners think twice about ignoring any changes in their dog’s behavior or physique. “This is a family member. If you see something that doesn’t look right or your dog is acting different, take him in! Take him to the vet. And if you get a diagnosis, just like with people, you can always go get a second opinion. Explore all your options before you make a decision.”

In addition to using her celebrity status to help pet owners realize that canine cancer can be treatable and that it’s important to seek out a treatment plan you’re comfortable with, Gorse has some other big plans. “Now that her arm is healing, I’m actually trying to get Aurora certified to be a helping dog so we can go to the children’s hospitals and visit kids who have cancer. I think that would really help them, and Aurora loves kids. She would love it.”

See her and Aurora’s story on Yahoo! And remember that once you get answers about your pet’s diagnosis, you should register your pet with TVCR to see if there are even more options available to you.

 

Rowdy’s Surgery Photo Gallery

November 21st, 2011   •   no comments   

Rowdy’s surgery was last Friday and so far, he’s done beautifully.

To recap, Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS) in College Station is performed a first-of-its-kind surgery on Friday, November 18, 2011 on a 8-year-old Great Pyranees named Rowdy to treat the osteosarcoma in his right front leg. Rowdy is an ideal candidate as a Naturally Occurring Animal Model (NOAM), his treatment will help to heal him while potentially proving methods that could help heal humans.

The procedure involves drilling 22 infinitesimal holes directly into the bone cancer and injecting isotope radiation directly to the tumor. This innovative approach resolves many issues that traditional treatment methods incur including amputation of the affected limb and whole body radiation – which is very damaging to animal’s quality of life if they survive the radiation.

With these advanced drugs and high-tech surgical tools, Rowdy’s surgery will hopefully not only be a success but will also hopefully lead to more treatment options for other dogs and humans too.

We’ll be sharing his condition updates later in the week but until then, here is a quick gallery of photos from his pre-op and mid-op experience.

 

 

Treatment may help dog — and humans

November 19th, 2011   •   no comments   

A&M experiment could pay off in battle against bone cancer.

By Melissa Ludwig, mludwig@express-news.net
Updated 02:01 a.m., Saturday, November 19, 2011

When Kate Cordts noticed swelling on the foreleg of her Great Pyrenees, Rowdy, she knew exactly what it was. Bone cancer.

“One of my previous dogs had the same disease. We had to put him down because it was too far along,” said Cordts, a librarian at the San Antonio Public Library.

A trip to the vet confirmed her suspicion, but this time she wasn’t ready to give up without a fight.

Putting her research skills to work, she found an experimental treatment at Texas A&M University’s veterinary school that could save her dog’s leg — and one day maybe the lives of children suffering from osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.

On Friday, Theresa Fossum, a veterinary surgeon at the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies in College Station, injected radioactive isotopes into Rowdy’s bone using tiny drills about the size of two human hairs. Researchers will watch the results carefully to see if the cancer shrinks and if the treatment could hold promise for humans.

“One of the reasons it costs $1.2 billion to get a new drug on the market is that most fail in clinical trials,” Fossum said. “Many get tested in mice with no immune system so they can grow a human tumor. Dogs are good models; they probably get cancer for the same reasons as humans and have an intact immune system.”

Around 10,000 dogs a year develop osteosarcoma, which seems to favor large dogs like St. Bernards. The disease strikes about 900 humans each year in the U.S., many of them children under 15.

The standard treatment for dogs is to amputate the leg, but the cancer commonly spreads to the lungs and kills the dog within a year of amputation.

It was this grim fate that inspired Stan Stearns, a Houston entrepreneur, to seek a different approach.

Stearns is president and founder of Houston-based Valco Instruments, which makes very small, precise instruments used in laboratories. When Stearns’ St. Bernard dog, Gabriel, developed bone cancer in 2007, he started reading up on alternative treatments such as radioactive isotope therapy, and thought his instruments could help make it a viable option for dogs.

“I am a bad loser. I really didn’t want to give up on him,” Stearns said. “Something hit me. Darn it, we have tools that we are not using.”

Stearns developed a drill that could deliver a tiny amount of radioactive isotope to the tumor, and he teamed up with Fossum and Texas A&M, which has one of the best medical imaging devices in the world to allow for better definition of the tumor.

According to Fossum, the procedure allows doctors to target the tumor without damaging healthy tissue or bombarding the entire body with chemo.

Though Gabriel died in 2008 after the cancer spread to his lungs, experimental trials with a handful of other dogs have given cause for hope. Since A&M’s institute opened in 2009, Fossum and her colleagues have treated eight dogs, including Rowdy.

Many have since died, but often of other causes — the life expectancy of large dogs is only around 10 years. The treatment seems to help relieve pain and to stop the spread of cancer to the lungs, Fossum said, but more testing is needed.

The therapy costs about $6,000 per dog. Stearns’ foundation, the Gabriel Institute, is picking up the tab for dog owners like Cordts.

“Many people say it is ridiculous to spend money on a pet. But in fact, we learn so much in treating these dogs and having them observed, it becomes an invaluable part of the overall research program,” Stearns said.

Plus, some pet owners would not blink at that amount, Fossum said.

“Having dealt with people with animals that needed surgery for many years, I learned never second-guess an owner as to what they might want to spend,” Fossum said. “Pets are family members to many people and they simply cannot put a price tag on it.”

Cordts, however, was grateful for the help. She will be happy if Rowdy gets another two good years out of life.

Of the family’s six dogs, he is the favorite, a scavenger who would eat a paper bag to get at a Whataburger chicken strip, and who races to the bed every Saturday for his weekly afternoon nap with Cordts.

“He is my sweetie. He is a goofball. I want to keep him around,” Cordts said.

See an great photo gallery at My San Antonio.com: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/article/Treatment-may-help-dog-and-humans-2277076.php#ixzz1eNMmGZUU
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