Sunday, July 12, 2009

Linus Update...

So I've been researching ways to treat Linus's melanoma that would a) not be detrimental to his quality of life, b) have a better chance of effectiveness than doing nothing at all, and c) not be terribly expensive.

Not that we can put a price on his worth, but it doesn't do him or us any good if we risk our financial well being. However, we would regret doing nothing for him. It is also important to us that he spend the remaining time he has in little or no discomfort.

So I've spent the week researching various solutions, contacting people with experience and knowledge about the disease, and evaluating it all as much as I can at this point.

Of course the first thing to do is Google as much as possible about canine malignant melanoma, learn about the disease, and find out all possible treatments. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin or orally. Typically, oral manifestations are likely to metastasize and are one of two common locations, the other being between the toes.

As I stated in a previous post, surgery and radiation have in the past been the primary treatments. I have learned that in 2007, Merial, an animal drug company released on limited USDA license a vaccine for canines with melanoma. This vaccine is only available to veterinary oncologists. It has a 40% success rate in reducing and even shrinking melanoma tumors. This vaccine was developed in conjunction with human studies at Sloan Kettering and is actually derived from human DNA. Similar vaccines are being used in radiation resistant melanoma in humans as well.

Since the vet that removed Linus's tumor did not even mention this vaccine, I'm assuming that he's not heard of it. I did some online searches for veterinary oncology and so far the closest place that I've found is the School of Veterinary Medicine in Columbia, Mo. So using the Internet I was able to find out that Tim Leard, director of biologics research and development at Merial will be presenting at a conference in July about the path to licensing the melanoma vaccine. From this I was able to track down an email address and took the chance to send him this email about Linus:

Hello Dr. Leard

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Last week my 13 year old dog Linus had an oral tumor removed. The pathology came back as malignant melanoma. The vet I am seeing has only suggested that he could get radiation treatment at a Missouri Veterinary School which is 100 miles away. In my online research I have found that Merial has a vaccine available for this type of cancer…and that the vaccine may help prolong his life. He is a spunky pup even at 13 and goes on a 2 mile walk with me nearly every day and plays quite vigorously with his “sister” so it is difficult to accept that he is terminal.

I am looking for a veterinarian in the St. Louis, Missouri area that would be able to treat Linus with this vaccine. Do you have any information that would help me or is there a way for my local vet to order it and administer it?

Thanks so much for your time,

I was pleasantly surprised to get this response back by the end of the day:

Thank you for inquiring about our vaccine. We currently distribute the vaccine to veterinary oncologist for administration to dogs with melanoma. This insures proper workup, administration, and followup for each patient.

I am copying Dr Bob Menardi who is our product manager for the vaccine. He can provide you with contact info for oncologists near you.

Please keep us informed and best of luck with Linus.

Regards, Tim Leard
Blackberry Wireless

So hopefully, Dr. Menardi will send me info on a local vet oncologist to treat Linus. Additionally, I've contacted a local veterinarian, Dr. Ava Frick, who specializes in alternative and holistic treatments. She's suggested bloodroot plant. Neoplasese from Buck Mountain Botanicals. So I'm going to make an appointment for Linus to see about getting him started with that as well.

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