Raliegh, N.C. - NCSU will rank as the nation's first university to offer bone-marrow transplantation in a clinical setting.
-- It's a costly procedure, but one researchers say should cure at least half the dogs that undergo it.
It's bone-marrow transplantation, and North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine soon will be the nation's first university to offer it to canine lymphoma patients in a standard clinical setting.
The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., donated three leukophoresis machines, once used to treat humans, to the veterinary school. The machines are suitable for canine use without modification, and NCSU will begin using them in about a month to harvest healthy stem cells from dogs, says Dr. Steven Suter, assistant professor of oncology at the school.
"It's not new technology, just a new application of an existing technology," he says.
"Doctors have been treating human patients with bone marrow transplantation for many years, and there have been canine patient transplants in a research setting for about 20 years, but it's never been feasible as a standard therapy until now," Suter explains.
Canine lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancer in dogs, but the survival rates with current treatments is low, perhaps 12 to 16 months at best. Suter expects marrow transplants to cure at least half the dogs who receive them at NCSU.
The procedure costs $15,000, not counting related veterinary appointments and chemotherapy and radiation treatments required before the harvesting and reintroduction of healthy stem cells.
But with the higher cure rate, cost may not be a deterrent to some owners, who don't balk at paying $10,000 or more for current lymphoma treatments, Suter says.
Only larger dogs, those weighing at least 55 pounds, are eligible for transplantation. That would include Labrador and golden retrievers, two breeds with the highest rates of lymphoma.
NCSU is seeking contributions to help cover the cost of the new procedure for owners who need financial assistance.