New research on dogs with bone cancer may help people

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Promising research through a clinical trial treating dogs with bone cancer may also help some children and women with cancer in the future.

The research is being done right in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine.

I met one very special dog going through the treatment.

For Bob Ipcar, his Italian Spinone "Denali" truly is man's best friend.

"I love this dog. He's my friend in the morning. He's an optimist first thing of the day as you head out," said Ipcar.

Denali also spent eight years spreading hope to cancer patients as a therapy dog.

However seven months ago, he became a patient. When he broke his leg, veterinarians discovered advanced bone cancer.

Dr. Nicola Mason says standard therapy is amputation and chemotherapy, but even with that chances aren't always good.

"Most of the dogs die within about 10 to 12 months because of metastatic disease - spread of the tumor to the chest," said Dr. Mason.

So she's testing a new treatment called immunotherapy. Along with radiation, it trains the immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells.

So far, it's working.

"We started treating him in January and we're now June and his chest is clear of any spread of the cancer, which is great news," said Dr. Mason.

And if this treatment further proves to be safe and effective, Dr. Mason says it should translate to kids with osteosarcoma and women battling breast cancer that has the HER2/neu molecule.

That's the same molecule expressed in dogs with bone cancer.

Ipcar is thrilled Denali continues to help cancer patients and that his best friend is still with him.

"He's is out in the park every day, he walks eight blocks to the park, eight blocks back. By rights he shouldn't be here, I'm totally thrilled about this," he said.

Penn Vet is still enrolling for the study.

They're looking for dogs with diagnosed or suspected bone cancer, who have not had an amputation.

For more information you can email: or call the hospital's main number at 215-746-8387.
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