UPDATE . . . June 14th, 2013
There are now four hospitals around the country that are actively
providing bone marrow transplant procedures. A fifth
location--NCSU--is undergoing the installation of a new linear
We continue to have our best success with allogeneic transplants
(with a matching donor)--with over 60% of dogs cured of lymphoma.
The process for identifying a donor is also much faster than in the
past--sometimes results available in a couple of weeks. In recent
months there have been three allogeneic transplants on dogs with
refractory lymphoma and leukemia that were unresponsive to
chemotherapy. Two of those patients are now many months (18 and 8)
since the transplants and are doing very well. The third was
recovering well then died suddenly due to gastric bloat and torsion.
All three of these dogs had no hope of survival with standard
We also continue to make good progress with autologous transplants
(using the patient as the donor). Around 40% of these patients
achieve cures and 10-15% more have disease control for up to two
years. In recent weeks, we have added an additional therapy to the
protocol (Adoptive Immunotherapy as was recently published by MD
Andersen Cancer Research Center) that we suspect will result in an
added increment of improvement.
Edmund Sullivan, DVM
To date, we have completed 3 allogenic stem cell transplants for dogs
with lymphoma: Comet, Bailey, and Annabelle. Comet is now three years
since his original diagnosis and continues to be disease free. Bailey,
our second transplant patient, has recently relapsed with lymphoma (B
cell) 6 months since the transplant. Her donor provided a donor
lymphocyte infusion to try to boost her
immune system against the tumor cells--the outcome of this procedure is
still pending. Even though she has relapsed, she continues to feel well
and is alert and active. Annabelle, our third transplant patient, is
doing very well, and is 6 months since the transplant procedure. Both
Bailey and Annabelle are approaching two years since the original
diagnosis of lymphoma.
We now have all of the components in place to routinely complete the
transplant procedures. The protocols we use are regularly used for
people--we have modified them for use in dogs with naturally occurring
disease. We have also been sharing our knowledge with Washington
State University and Texas A and M University to help them provide
transplants for their patients.
On the leukemia front, last summer we identified a dog, Gunner, with
acute myelogenous leukemia and completed a trial of LCI, the
parthenolide derivative made by Leuchemix. Gunner died of progression
of the disease, however before he died significant demonstration of
effectiveness of the drug against the leukemia cells was found.
hope to continue this investigation.
Best wishes to you during this Holiday Season,
Edmund Sullivan, DVM
I have been asked to pass on this very important information.
Dr. Edmund Sullivan, who you may recall, is the wonderful vet from
Bellingham Veterinary Critical Care, who did Comet's bone marrow
transplant, is now working with a company called Leuchemix, that is
developing a new drug to treat acute myeloid and acute lymphoblastic
leukemia, two conditions that are often rapidly fatal.
In order to test the in vitro effectiveness of the drug being developed by Leuchemix, Dr. Sullivan
and his team, need fresh whole blood or marrow samples from dogs with
either of these conditions.
If in vitro effectiveness can be established, then a clinical trial will
be set up for dogs with these conditions.
If anyone has questions about this in vitro study, they can contact Dr.
Sullivan at the email address or phone numbers listed below.
Edmund Sullivan, DVM
720 Virginia St
Bellingham WA 98225
Thank you very much for your help. Together, we can make a difference,
and take a bite out of canine cancer.
You are welcome to cross post this information, and updates will be
posted on Blues' web site, at www.smilingblueskies.com, in Dr.
Sullivan's special section.
You are also welcome to contact Dr. Sullivan directly.
We all remember the
story of Comet.
Well, there have been nearly 100 dogs treated for lymphoma with a bone
marrow transplant (Actually, the process is stem cell therapy, since
there is no collection of actual bone marrow, but rather, the stem cells
that reside in the marrow are removed.) during the last 10 years. Most
of these patients were treated at North Carolina State University, and
the remainder were treated in Bellingham, and two private practices
located in Los Angeles and San Diego.
Of all these patients, approximately 40 percent have been long term
survivors, that is, free of lymphoma for at least 2 years.
Comet and Annabelle, two of the very first transplant patients, lived
out the remainder of their lives, free of lymphoma!
Some of the patients who relapsed following the bone marrow transplant,
responded well to rescue therapy, and have been surviving up to 2 years.
Dr. Sullivan told me that there have also been significant improvements
in the transplant process itself. Currently, they have an optimal
treatment protocol. This protocol involves early planning for a
transplant, best done during the first remission, which is usually 6 to
8 weeks following induction chemotherapy, as this allows for a better
outcome and reduces the overall cost of lymphoma therapy in general,
since the bone marrow transplant process is a definitive therapy that
does not require long term chemotherapy.
Further, they identify a tumor marker prior to treatment, to confirm
molecular remission, and the medications used to optimize the stem cell
collection have also been improved. The machine used for the stem cell
collection, called an apheresis machine, has been updated too.
Notably, the process is also significantly less expensive that it was 10
years ago. While it was about $40,000 ten years ago, today, the cost is
$12,000 to $15,000 US, depending on the size of the dog.
In addition, over the last 8 months, a special service has been put into
place, for the identification of related bone marrow donors for
Wednesday, April 6, 2005
What price a pet's life? $45,000 to treat Comet/bigger>
Here is an Update on
Comet's Progress, 21 Months Since His Original Diagnosis,
and 15 Months Since
his Bone Marrow Transplant
Comet has been doing
very well and is currently off all medications related to
his transplant. He has no signs of graft versus host disease, is
apparently free of lymphoma, and has sustained engraftment. He runs
five miles every day with his owner and other Golden Retriever
companion, Ajax. This month is 21 months since his original
diagnosis and 15 months since his transplant.
Dr. Westfall and Dr.
Sullivan, continue working towards providing transplants for
additional patients, and they have 8 patients with lymphoma being
staged for both allogenic and autologous transplants. Currently,
the cost for an autologous transplant is expected to be around $12K
US and an allogenic transplant between $18-20K depending upon the
size of the dog, the number of matching studies, and the length of
hospitalization. The doctors hope that these costs will continue to
decline as they learn more and streamline the process. With an
autologous transplant they expect to have long term disease free
periods in 30% of these patients. With allogenic transplants with
matching DLA donors (sibling donors), they expect up to 60% long
term disease free periods. These numbers are estimates based
upon the results of autologous transplants done 25 years ago
adjusted for improvements in chemo protocols and supportive care
It is important that
staging for the transplants be started as soon after the initial
diagnosis as possible since autologous transplants are best done in
the first remission. Also, the use of Neupogen and un-irradiated
blood products before the transplant can interfere with mobilization
"Comet is like many Golden Retrievers: gentle, devoted,
enthusiastically greeting each day wih his wagging, plumed
tail. He loves to swim, run in the woods and pack around his
large toy hamburger.
But Comet is different. He's one of very few dogs worldwide
to receive a stem-cell transplant for cancer treatment,
rather than primarily for research. Cost of the therapy:
Visit the following link, to read more about the miraculous
story of Comet, the Golden Retriever, written by Warren
King, Seattle Times Medical Reporter. (Permission has been
granted by the Seattle Times, to post this link.
Drs. Edmund Sullivan and Theresa Westfall,
Veterinarians at Bellingham Veterinary & Critical Care
Drs. Edmund Sullivan and Theresa Westfall, veterinarians at
Bellingham Veterinary & Critical Care, located in
Bellingham, Washington, have been extraordinary at "pushing
the envelope", trying to get treatment for desperately sick
animals. They have been working with the researchers at the
Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, located in Seattle,
Washington, a world renowned facility for cancer treatment.
People come from all over the world, to be treated at FHCRC.
You can visit the centre on line, at
Many of you may be familiar with the FHCRC, because of the
work they have been doing to "develop the resources
necessary to map and clone canine genes, in an effort to
utilize dogs as a model system for genetics and cancer
research. The Dog Genome Project is moving from the FHCRC to
the National Human Genome Research Institute, which is part
of the National Institutes of Health, located in Bethesda,
Maryland. The project will change its name to the NHGRI Dog
Genome Project, and will be found on the web at
About a year ago, Drs. Sullivan and Westfall and the team at
the FHCRC did a bone marrow transplant on a young Golden
Retriever from San Juan Island named Comet, who was
suffering from T-Cell lymphoma. This was not an experimental
treatment, in the sense that most of the bone marrow
transplant knowledge for humans, has been gained through
work with dogs. However, this was one of the few times, at
least in the United States, that a pet had been given a bone
marrow transplant for lymphoma. Comet is alive and well, and
accompanies his people on a 5 mile run every day. Comet's
"one year anniversary" is coming up in a couple of weeks!
The following, is an excerpt from an email, that was just
shared with a group of Golden Retriever fanciers and
"We are currently treating cases of high grade lymphoma (any
subtype is fair game, T Cell, B Cell, lymphoblastic, etc.)
and leukemia. These two groups are known to respond well to
bone marrow transplants--there are literally thousands of
people who have been treated. Comet is evidence that current
knowledge is out there and potentially can be adapted to
treat some of these common forms of cancer in dogs." (Thanks
to Nancy Clifton)
If you have a dog with lymphoma, or know of one, they may be
eligible for this treatment . This is a fantastic
breakthrough. We have all done our homework, and we all know
that there is much more homework to be done, but this opens
the window of hope even further, for our beloved heart dogs.
Edmund Sullivan, DVM
Theresa Westfall, DVM
Bellingham Veterinary & Critical Care
720 Virginia Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
You or your veterinarian can call Bellingham Veterinary and
Critical Care, at
360-734-0720. They are located at 720 Virginia Street,
Bellingham, WA, USA, 98225.