1. Half Body Radiation – Another Weapon in the Fight Against Lymphoma in Dogs

    As an oncologist, one cancer that I find can be the most satisfying to treat in dogs is lymphoma.  Most dogs with lymphoma will go into remission after only a few treatments and they will often stay in remission for months.  During this time, aside from having to come to see the oncologist for treatment, their quality of life is often very good.  Once they get into remission owners often report that they are running, playing or just living their normal life as if they never had cancer.

    Unfortunately, almost all of these pets will eventually come out of remission and succumb to their disease.  In the past twenty years there has been little to no improvement in the remission and survival times with chemotherapy alone.

    That is one reason why it is exciting to be able to use half body radiation in addition to chemotherapy in dogs.  With this protocol, dogs are first treated with chemotherapy to get them into remission and this is followed by two treatments of half body radiation.  We use a low dose rate, meaning that dogs develop almost no side effects from the treatment.  They can get some changes to their hair coat and some intestinal upset, but otherwise they are typically fine.  Most dogs will then go on to complete a shortened chemotherapy protocol.  Initial results suggest that by combining radiation therapy with chemotherapy in this way dogs are in remission longer and are living longer with lymphoma.

    We are excited to be able to offer low-dose-rate half body radiation at the VCC as another option to treat dogs with lymphoma.

  2. Dog Fancy Questions Feb 2014

    Starting in January 2014, I write a monthly column in Dog Fancy magazine about cancer. Each month I answer client’s questions or discuss a topic relating to the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of cancer in dogs. Here are some questions from Dog Fancy readers that I was unable to answer in my column.

    Q: After reading your article in March 2014 regarding cancer types and breeds, I have this question.  One of my four legged buddies is a Bernese Mountain Dog Mix (Bernese Mountain Dog/Collie-English Cocker cross[very handsome boy] ) and I have read that the Bernese breed is at high risk for lymphoma, if you have a mix breed dog, does this decrease the chances of the dog getting cancer?

    A: Bernese Mountain Dogs, Collies and English Cocker- your pet must be beautiful. The answer to your question as to whether mix breed dogs have a lower risk of certain cancers is yes, they do–sometimes. If you have two breeds that have a high predilection for developing any cancer, crossing these two breeds may or may not decrease the risk of cancer in the offspring. The reason for this is that veterinarians and geneticists are still unsure as to which specific genes predispose the breeds to the various types of cancer. In a very large study (see evaluating over 27,000 dogs, researchers at University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine found no difference in the predisposition of cancer in purebred dogs when compared to mixed-breed dogs. However, there are specific cancers where mixed-bred dogs do have a lower predisposition than do certain pure breeds.


    The most important consideration when deciding which breed of dog to get or whether to get a purebred or mixed breed is personal preference. Having a dog you love is THE most important factor.

    Q:  I read your article in Dog Fancy concerning common cancers in dogs.  I was interested in the story concerning Maddy, the Border Collie diagnosed with lymphoma and that she is still in remission after 4 years.  I was wondering what type of chemotherapy she received.  My poodle was diagnosed last year but came out of remission after only 9 months.  He underwent the CHOP protocol the first time and is currently undergoing the same treatment. I have been told he may have survive another 4 -5 months on this current treatment. What type of treatment do you recommend?  Thank you.

    A: Maddy was a spectacular dog and one of my favorites patients. She was treated with both chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. While not widely available, bone marrow transplants can improve the prognosis for dogs with lymphoma. The other therapies that we are currently using at The Veterinary Cancer Center in Norwalk, CT are chemotherapy alone and chemotherapy in conjunction with radiation therapy. The three major protocols we use are CHOP (cycylophosphamide, Hydroxydaunorubicin (doxorubicin), Oncovin (vincristine), Prednisone), MOPP (mustargen, Oncovin (vincristine), Procarbazine and Prednisone) and Lomustine (CeeNU, CCNU). These three protocols form the basis for many of our lymphoma treatments. There are certainly variations of these with the CHOP-MA protocol, one that I helped develop (see, giving dogs with B cell lymphoma a prolonged survival time, 622 days, compared with most other variants.

    The protocol that is best for your particular dog depends upon a variety of factors and your local veterinarian or veterinary oncologist would be the best person to advise you.

  3. News: Dr. Farrelly named associate editor for Veterinary Radiology and Ultrasound

    At the 2013 ACVR meeting in October in Savannah, Georgia, our radiation oncologist/medical oncologist Dr. John Farrelly was named as an associate editor for the journal, Veterinary Radiology and Ultrasound.  This journal serves as one of the most influential sources of information for primary research on the use of radiation therapy for treating cancer as well as diagnostic imaging in all animals.  This volunteer position is a new one, which was created to ensure that the journal continues to focus on publishing the most relevant and important studies on the treatment of pets with radiation.

    When asked about this position, Dr. Farrelly commented, “As the associate editor for Veterinary Radiology and Ultrasound my hope is that I will be able to help select studies for the journal that will provide the highest level of knowledge on how we should diagnose and treat cancer in animals.”

    “Working at the Veterinary Cancer Center not only allows me to provide cutting edge care for patients with cancer.  It also allows me to play a role in research.  It is crucial that we continue to learn the safest and best ways to treat our patients with cancer and as associate editor I hope that it will be one more way that I can contribute to that process”