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 post transplant.  

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 and engraftment. 

“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: $45,000.

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 

Bellingham, Washington 

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 Fred

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 breeders:

“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. 

Contact Information:

Edmund Sullivan, DVM

Theresa Westfall, DVM

Bellingham Veterinary & Critical Care

720 Virginia Street

Bellingham, WA 98225


360-752-5555 fax

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.