Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Canine oral melanoma: New vaccine is helping dogs like Ebony live longer

For a dog owner, there's almost nothing scarier than a cancer diagnosis. Once considered an almost certain death sentence, now dogs with canine oral melanoma — and their owners — have new hope, thanks to a groundbreaking new therapeutic vaccine recently granted full licensure from the USDA.

Oncept is the first therapeutic cancer vaccine the USDA has approved for any species and its success rate is staggering, Dr. Philip Bergman, the primary veterinarian behind the vaccine, tells In the past, dogs diagnosed with stage II or stage III oral melanoma survived less than six months when treated with surgery alone. But when Oncept was added into the treatment dogs responded so well that median survival time cannot be determined because many of the dogs are still alive today or died of an unrelated illness.

"We've been overjoyed with the results," says Bergman. "I get letters out of the blue and it's been very gratifying. We're starting to see patients having survival times of years."

Jean Mann couldn't be happier with how her 11-year-old black Labrador, Ebony, is doing with the help of Oncept. The dog was first diagnosed with oral melanoma in the fall of 2008 after a vet discovered a mass in the back of his throat that proved malignant. Ebony was treated with both surgery and multiple doses of Oncept — he got his last vaccine just last month — and is now doing amazingly well.

"I am beyond ecstatic at how well he's done," Mann tells "There are times he's kind of puppy-like. His world revolves around food and peeing on every blade of grass."

Dogs like Ebony initially get four doses of the vaccine — one every two weeks — followed by a booster shot every six months. The vaccine is inserted into the inner thigh muscle of the dog with a needle-free canine transdermal device and each time dogs receive a dose of the vaccine, their immune response becomes stronger in the fight against melanoma.

Unlike traditional vaccines that are given before a disease develops, Oncept is considered a therapeutic vaccine and only given once the disease is diagnosed. Bergman says it's most effective when first given soon after the diagnosis is made.

There can be minimal side effects to the vaccine, like infection at the injection site, though Ebony hasn't had any problems.

"He never had any reaction to the vaccine, never changed his attitude or his demeanor," says Mann. "He never displayed ill symptoms."

The vaccine is especially significant because many in the medical community feel it might eventually lead to a cancer vaccine for humans. In fact, Bergman teamed with Dr. Jedd Wolchok of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center more than 10 years ago to develop the vaccine and study its impact in both dogs and people.

"We're very excited about continuing research into this vaccine to explore the potential implications it has for humans," Wolchok said in a statement. "We hope this will result in improved cancer treatment for all."

In the meantime, dogs and their owners can reap the benefits of this remarkable treatment, which should now be available in many veterinary oncology offices throughout the country.

Mann says she would not hesitate to recommend it to other dog owners and is just thrilled that it's helped Ebony live a longer life — with gusto.

"He's the happiest dog on the planet," says Mann. "And he’s doing really well."
National Canine Cancer Foundation


Inigo Flufflebum and d'Artagnan Rumblepurr said...

It's good that they're making such good progress, hopefully a cure is around the corner.

Sophie said...

I really hope so too.
I lost my dog a few last year and it's still hurt.
My hubby's friend give us a dog, I hope I can do better this time.

Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom said...

That is great to see!

Paws khrossed it is just the start to MORE!


Sam said...

That's awesome! As the prevalence of things like cancer grows, research and breakthroughs like this are SO important!

Olive said...

Thanks so much for this information.. So important to be informed on the treatments available and research being made.

Licks from Olive :)

Teddy Bear said...

What a great story. I'm so glad that Ebony is going well.:)

Teddy Bear

^..^Corgidogmama said...

So glad to hear that progress is being made in vet medicine as well. Just felt a mass/lump in my little Addie. I'm hoping that it's just a fatty tumor...will have to go have it checked.

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Thank you for sharing some good news progress for all us pups.
We need more good stuff to happen- don't we?

Ms. ~K said...

Very encouraging news!
Thanks for sharing,

Dory and the Mama said...

Thanks so much for keeping us informed.


Mango said...

Great story. It is good that there are more medicines to keep our pals around for a good long time living happy lives.


The Bumpass Hounds said...

Boy is that a GReat story. We're all very glad about the resurgence in canine cancer research over the last few years. fortunately, there are many foundations now focusing on treating canine cancers and there are surely beneficial fallout from human cancer research efforts. Thanks for contributing to our awareness.

Martine said...

Thanks for sharing this info!

You two have been added to the pups scouts of america!! we are so excited to have you!!

xo martine & the kiddlets

Alex93andme said...

That is wonderful news! Having lost my husband several years ago to melanoma and then my last dog to liver cancer, I am happy to know they are making great progress for dogs and hopefully people. You find the most interesting articles...thanks!!! Love, Debbie and Hollydog

Twinkietinydog said...

What an important and valuable post. We must spread the word and save some lives.



We didn't know about the vancine. Thank you so much for this goos information.

We love ya so take care.

Riley and Star.

Sam said...

That is wonderful news! It is one small step in the right direction!


SGR said...

WOof! Woof! Great information to know. Lots of Golden Thanks, Sugar

Matilda said...

Hi Scout and Freyja!
Thank you for the great information!
woof woof

Piappies World said...

Hello Scout & Frejya,

Thank you for sharing this important news. We hope that this is a start of more magic meds to cure our beloved furry friends.

We hope you are both having a good weekend!

-Fudgie, Princess & the Piappies