Bailey, a 10-year-old Airedale terrier, used to be a rescue dog, trained to help save lives. After being diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels, she will have to rely on CSU’s Animal Cancer Center to save her.
Bailey is lucky; the largest group in the world studying cancer in pets will treat her.
“The ACC sees patients from around the world – literally, people fly in from overseas,” said Dell Rae Moellenberg, a spokeswoman for the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
She said that a family recently came all the way from Vietnam and another drove from Alaska to treat their pets.
In Bailey’s case, it was only a short drive from Boulder.
“We are blessed with having the best in the country. People come here from around the country. All we had to do was jump in a car and drive an hour,” said Derek Lucas, one of Bailey’s owners.
Unfortunately, Bailey’s cancer is probably one of the worst cancers that the ACC has to deal with, according to Kelvin Kow, an oncology resident at the ACC.
Only 10 percent of dogs diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma survive longer than a year after diagnosis, Kow explained to Bailey’s owners.
“It’s my least favorite thing to treat,” Kow said.
Bailey will be treated with a chemotherapy drug called Carboplatin. Even being treated by the best in the country, Bailey’s chances are still dim.
But Kow still thought the procedure was worth it.
“Every day is a gift,” he said.
CSU’s Veterinary Medicine program is ranked second in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report. However, the ACC doesn’t think of its work as a competition among other animal cancer programs, Susan Lana, the assistant professor and supervisor of the Oncology Laboratory said.
“We work together in collaborative studies,” she said.
She said that they share data from various trials with an organization called the Comparative Oncology Trial Consortium.
“There are 12 different academic institutions involved in COTC,” Lana said.
The COTC was formed primarily for new drug development for humans.
The ACC has come a long way in its 30-year existence.
Although cancer research has progressed over the last 20 years, pet owners have only recently had the option of treatment, Lana explained.
“Previously when a cancer was recognized in pets, they were euthanized,” she said.
Today, human treatments have been adapted to be used in animals.
“Pets serve as a really good model for people,” Lana said. “Diseases behave very similarly.”
Trying new procedures on dogs, for example, can be quite an advantage.
“Since their life-span is shorter, we can answer questions about the treatment more quickly than we can in people,” Lana said.
The ACC performs clinical trials with new chemotherapy drugs and new ways to deliver previously established drugs.
These trials are evaluated and the new drugs may move on to human trials if successful, Lana explained.
Kow says that they see about 20 to 30 cases a day.
“Since we also teach vet students, we don’t see the volume of cases that private practices do,” he said. “Things take a little longer.”
Volunteer Shawna Johnson, who is in the process of applying for vet school at CSU, says she has enjoyed her experience so far at ACC.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting people and seeing some very interesting cases,” she said.
She explained that she recently saw a 120-pound Pyrenees get its leg amputated to remove cancerous cells in the dog’s bone. She said she had never seen that big of a dog on three legs.
But despite the successes, the ACC has to deal with several pet deaths each year. For dealing with such deaths, it has also developed one of the first client counseling and pet loss services.
The Lucases just hope they won’t have to use it.
Staff writer Brandon Owens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.