The asbestos that causes malignant mesothelioma in humans can also affect our furry friends, and dogs are notably vulnerable to the disease’s deadly tumors. When a six-year-old pet dog in Milan, Italy was diagnosed with mesothelioma of the pleura, pericardium and peritoneum, researchers took the opportunity to test an innovative drug delivery mechanism that loaded chemotherapy drugs into adipose tissues taken from the animal’s rear flanks and then injected it back into the abdominal and thoracic cavity. The dog received 17 treatments and had a remarkable 22-month survival before being euthanized.
Human Mesothelioma Treatment Can Be Guided by Dog’s Experience
New medications and emerging treatment techniques are often tested on laboratory animals, and though it is hard to imagine dogs having mesothelioma, when they do have the disease scientists and veterinarians can test new therapies under consideration for humans. When the six-year-old mixed breed was diagnosed with the debilitating disease after a two-month history of “progressive weakness, loss of appetite, productive cough, abdominal distention, and difficulty in breathing,” scientists recognized an opportunity.
Because the dog was young and its mesothelioma symptoms had only just presented, owners and veterinarians from the Department of Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine of the San Michele Veterinary Hospital in Italy moved forward to test the innovative drug delivery medium. Using microfragmented adipose tissue allows a slow release of chemotherapy to the tumor that researchers hoped would be effective without presenting short- or long-term adverse effects.
Promising Results for Both Canine and Human Mesothelioma Patients
The researchers proceeded with the test by first draining exudate fluid from the dog’s abdomen and chest and then injecting the chemotherapy-loaded fat cells into the right and left pleural spaces as well as intraperitoneally. Blood counts and biochemistry revealed that the dog suffered no systemic toxicity or damage to internal organs and experienced rapid improvement in its general conditions after each treatment. Owners reported that after each treatment the dog was able to play and climb stairs and rarely coughed. Its appetite returned and it breathed normally.
The positive effect lasted an average of thirty-to-forty days, though its impact was greater during the first fifteen months of treatment when the improved condition lasted an average of 52 days. In the last seven months of the dog’s life, the intervals diminished to an average of 24 days until its condition worsened and was finally euthanized after 22 months. The researchers concluded that the drug delivery system seemed “able to produce a local, rather long-term antineoplastic effect without any systemic myelotoxicity,” and that it should be considered a novel therapeutic approach for mesothelioma treatment that can be taken into account when considering treatment in humans too.
Innovations like the one used in the treatment of this dog may have far-reaching impacts for humans with mesothelioma. For information on other state-of-the-art treatments, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.