Bellingham, Wash. — A successful stem-cell transplant was performed on a Golden Retriever with T-cell lymphoma, a milestone that has spurred hopes of making the procedure customary on a national level.
BELLINGHAM, WASH. — A successful stem-cell transplant was performed on a Golden Retriever with T-cell lymphoma, a milestone that has spurred hopes of making the procedure customary on a national level.
"This is the right time for veterinary medicine to take a big step," says Dr. Edmund Sullivan, Bellingham Veterinary and Critical Care, Bellingham, Wash. "There is definitely a market for the procedure and dogs have better lives, longer."
The donor dog is under sedation while valuable stem cells are removed at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Few dogs have received stem-cell transplants, largely due to the price tag that accompanies the procedure — approximately $45,000. But over time, some of the cost can be eliminated.
One DVM says general practitioners are not fully aware of how the procedure is performed and could offer the treatment to clients.
"General practitioners do not typically perform such a procedure," Sullivan says. "It's a big job to organize the procedure, but it isn't a difficult job. We don't want Comet (the transplant recipient) to be an isolated event."
Sullivan matched blood types with the Golden Retriever and performed the transplant with help from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC). Sullivan is a general practitioner with special interest in transplant biology.
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It the latest case, the Golden Retriever's spleen was removed, and total body radiation treatment was given to kill cancerous cells.
The FHCRC separated stem-cells from the donor dog's blood then intravenously administered the healthy cells to the transplant recipient, beginning new healthy cell growth. The dog then was restricted to isolation for 14 days while immune cells grew.
"We want to set up a protocol for the stem-cell transplant," Sullivan says. "It would really benefit veterinarians, clients and of course pets if a blueprint can be formulated. General practitioners could then give their clients the option of having a stem-cell transplant performed on their pet."
The dog developed sores on its muzzle when the stem-cells rejected the new environment. However, cyclosporine was used to remedy the problem, Sullivan says. At this time, the dog is cancer-free one year after the transplant.
"It took a while to regulate the amount of medication needed to keep the dog healthy," he adds. "But now he runs five miles a day with his owner. This is a dog that was dying of cancer a year ago."
Sullivan says the ideal chain of events to make stem-cell transplants customary would begin with a symposium of veterinarians working together to formulate the necessary steps: listing equipment, drugs, supplies and staff needed for the process.
Matching potential donors to the patient is not as difficult as it once was, Sullivan says, adding that matching is more readily available than in the past.
"Veterinarians need only to incorporate techniques, not identify new findings, he says."
Five more dogs are in the matching process currently, Sullivan says. Another dog has been matched to its sister and will have a transplant soon.
"For us, this is pretty fantastic," Sullivan says. "I've seen so many dogs with lymphoma and they've all died."
Multiple centers that have the ability to do stem cell transplants are necessary. Currently, the process occurs at a university of specialty practice only.