Friday, March 14, 2008
Medical Reports: Melanoma in dogs
Humans and dogs share a dangerous type of cancer known as melanoma. With dogs, melanoma often shows up in their mouths and can spread quickly, but a new treatment could be the answer for man's best friend, and maybe man, as well. Seven's Christine Cruz reports.
WSVN -- Nelida Belle: "Are you shy, Tootsie? Are you shy? Oh, my goodness. You are so shy!"
Nelida Belle says her 11-year-old dog Tootsie is like another daughter.
Nelida Belle: "Out of all the dogs I have had, she is just precious. She is lovable. She is perky."
But looks can be deceiving. You'd never know Tootsie's body is fighting to live.
Nelida Belle: "If I had ever known that this could happen to a dog, I would have had her in a month earlier to have her checked."
Tootsie was having a hard time eating, what Nelida thought was just a dental problem. It turned out to be a malignant tumor in the back of her mouth.
Veterinary Oncologist Stacy Santoro says canine melanoma is an aggressive form of cancer that dogs typically only survive one to five months. But this new treatment, a canine cancer vaccine, could change all that.
Dr. Stacey Santoro: "Overall, it's been shown to significantly prolong survival in dogs with oral melanoma."
Studies show, dogs that get the vaccine along with surgery or radiation, live three times longer than those that don't, and now, researchers are hoping for similar results in humans.
Dr. Stacey Santoro: "The point of it is to stimulate their own immune system to recognize tumor cells and then kill those affected cells."
But lengthening Tootsie's life will cost a pretty penny. Radiation and the vaccine will run $4,000 to $5,000.
Nelida Belle: "My daughter is graduating from high school this year, and we were planning a cruise for her graduation, and she said, 'Mom, the treatment is rather expensive. We'd rather give this money for Tootsie.'"
A sacrifice to give their Tootsie more time.
Dr. Stacey Santoro: "Give me five. Good girl!"
Doctors say this type of melanoma in dogs mostly shows up in those with dark-pigmented skin, and is usually not related to sun exposure.