National Pet Cancer Awareness Month: Pet Cancer Treatment Options, Part II

November 12, 2014

dog receiving chemotherapyNovember has been designated National Pet Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness about the causes, prevention and treatment of dogs and cats with this terrible disease. To raise awareness of the possible treatments for pet cancer, this second part of my two-part blog on cancer treatments for pets discusses three additional treatment therapies: chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. Part I focused on surgery and radiation therapy.

Although the use of radiation therapy in humans preceded the use of chemotherapy, chemotherapy was more widely used in pet cancers before radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is administered when a biopsy indicates a tumor has spread or might spread, such as in feline breast cancer.

Chemotherapy can also be administered when a tumor is too widespread for either surgical removal or radiation therapy. At the top of the veterinary list of pet cancers treated with chemotherapy is lymphoma.

Veterinary oncologists treat both dogs and cats for lymphoma using a variety of chemotherapy drugs. Most commonly used is the CHOP protocol. CHOP is an acronym representing the first letter of each chemotherapy drug in the protocol and is repurposed from human oncology. Despite the bad reputation chemotherapy has, both cat and dog owners report a good quality of life in their pets receiving chemotherapy.

The concept of harnessing the cancer patient’s own immune system to fight cancer is an idea that has been around a long while. The idea came to fruition when a vaccine to treat melanoma in dogs was approved in 2010.

Dogs suffering from melanoma are given four vaccinations over two months and then boostered every six months. This treatment protocol prolonged survival by 300 days or more in dogs receiving the vaccine. In people with lymphoma, treatment using monoclonal antibodies like Rituxan® has dramatically improved patients’ survival time. In a similar vein, AMC oncologists are currently studying a monoclonal antibody against T cell lymphoma and a monoclonal antibody against B cell lymphoma is also available.

On the horizon for the treatment of lymphoma is a new cancer vaccine for a particular type of lymphoma in dogs called large B cell lymphoma.

Targeted Therapy
In 2009, toceranib phosphate, known as Palladia®, became the first targeted therapy approved for use in dogs diagnosed with mast cell tumors.

A second targeted therapy, mastitinib, known as Kinavet®, has conditional approval for the treatment of the same tumor. Targeted therapies exploit a physiologic abnormality in tumor cells, not present in normal cells. Targeted therapies commonly work by turning on or off a cellular process critical to cancer growth and metastasis, halting tumor growth. In the future, expect to see more targeted drugs used in dogs and cats.

Because cancer is diagnosed in over six million pets each year, you may be faced with this diagnosis in your favorite furry friend. But treatment of cancer in pets is possible. You and your pet have more treatment options and more specially trained veterinarians than ever before to help you achieve a good outcome if your pet is diagnosed with cancer. To find a board certified veterinary cancer specialist in your area, visit the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine website and use their search function.

Uncle Chichi: A Long Life in Dog Years, Well Lived

January 27, 2012

Uncle Chichi in The AMC waiting room

The staff of The Animal Medical Center was saddened to read of the passing of one of its most distinguished canine patients, Uncle Chichi.

A resident of Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood, Uncle Chichi was a philanthropist. Because of an appearance on “Good Morning America,” he garnered a donation of 10,000 servings of Spot’s Stew for the John Ancrum Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Charleston, SC, the organization that found him his forever home 24 years ago. That’s right, 24 years ago. Uncle Chichi was one of those centenarian miniature poodles I wrote about in “How Old is Old, in Dog Years.”

Any dog living over 24 years is guaranteed to become a connoisseur of veterinarians, and Uncle Chichi was no exception. He arrived at The Animal Medical Center with a pathology report in French stamped with an official-looking Swiss stamp. His family had noticed a black mass on his lower lip while traveling and a veterinarian in Geneva, Switzerland diagnosed mélanome. The attached translation said melanoma.

Melanoma is a common tumor managed by the veterinarians at The AMC. The lip mass was surgically removed by AMC board-certified soft tissue surgeon, Dr. Janet Kovak McClaran. Uncle Chichi’s board-certified oncologist, Dr. Maria Camps,

prescribed the state-of-the-art canine melanoma vaccine and administered four doses. This vaccine has prolonged the survival of many grateful dogs suffering from melanoma, but Uncle Chichi’s melanoma defied the statistics and spread to his lungs. As the tumors in his lungs worsened, Uncle Chichi’s cough worsened. A molecularly targeted chemotherapy agent, Palladia, and a cough suppressant were prescribed and relieved the constant coughing. But then the seizures started. Uncle Chichi came to The AMC ER and they diagnosed spread of the melanoma to his brain.

The typical dog with a melanoma treated with the vaccine lives over 400 days. Uncle Chichi lived just over half that time. Although we wish it would have been longer, The AMC is proud to have contributed to such a well-lived and long life. Uncle Chichi will be missed by many, including those of us who knew him here at The AMC.

Photo: Barbara Ross


This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

Big News in Cancer Treatment for Dogs!

July 21, 2009


Just last month, veterinary oncology had a first and as a board certified veterinary oncologist, this news just made my day. Until now, all chemotherapy agents administered to dogs were human drugs adapted for use by veterinarians. In June, the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine approved the use of Palladia® (toceranib phosphate) which was specifically developed for use in dogs and has safety and efficacy data from canine studies backing its use. Palladia is licensed for the treatment of recurrent mast cell tumors.

mast-cell-tumorVeterinary oncologists have effective therapies for some dogs with mast cell tumors.  These treatments include surgery, human chemotherapy agents and radiation therapy.  But not all dogs have tumors amenable to surgical removal, not all tumors are in a location where radiation therapy can be safely administered and currently available chemotherapy agents do not cure every dog. So the first drug specifically developed for canine mast cell tumors is big news. 

Mast cell tumors are one of the most common skin tumors in dogs and are one of the most important cancers veterinary oncologists treat. Some dogs are unlucky enough to have multiple mast cell tumors or a mast cell tumor that keeps coming back in the same location. So a drug to help manage this common tumor is big news, redux.

Palladia belongs to a class of drugs known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors. The presence of abnormal tyrosine kinases in tumors results in the proliferation of tumor cells and the growth of new blood vessels to the tumor. These blood vessels provide nutrients to the growing tumor. Inhibition of tyrosine kinases by drugs like Pallada (or for humans, Gleevec®, another tyrosine kinase inhibitor) stops both cell proliferation and new blood vessel growth. Without nutrients and without cell proliferation the tumor shrinks. More big news.

Pfizer Animal Health is working with veterinary specialists to help them use Palladia effectively and safely. It is currently available from board certified veterinary specialists in oncology, internal medicine and dermatology. To find the specialist nearest you go to for oncologists and internists and at for dermatologists. Pricing for Palladia has not yet been announced.

Click here to download an information sheet about Palladia from The AMC.

The Oncology Team at The Animal Medical Center

At The Animal Medical Center, specialists certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in the sub-specialty of Oncology and the American College of Veterinary Radiology in the sub-specialty of Radiation Oncology provide dedicated care for pets with cancer Monday through Saturday.  We take a team approach to cancer care, collaborating with specialists in the fields of diagnostic imaging, pathology, surgery and internal medicine to create a customized plan for the care of your pets .

You can reach The AMC Oncology staff by email or phone:

• Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology, Small Animal Internal Medicine)    
(212) 329-8612,   
• Nicole Leibman, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)
(212) 329-8696,   
• John Farrelly, DVM, DACVR (Radiation Oncology), DACVIM (Oncology)
(212) 329-8794,  
• Andrea Flory, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)
(212) 329-8687,


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