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 allogenic transplants.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

What price a pet’s life? $45,000 to treat Comet