UPDATE . . . June 14th, 2013

There are now four hospitals around the country that are actively providing bone marrow transplant procedures. A fifth location--NCSU--is undergoing the installation of a new linear accelerator.

We continue to have our best success with allogeneic transplants (with a matching donor)--with over 60% of dogs cured of lymphoma. The process for identifying a donor is also much faster than in the past--sometimes results available in a couple of weeks. In recent months there have been three allogeneic transplants on dogs with refractory lymphoma and leukemia that were unresponsive to chemotherapy. Two of those patients are now many months (18 and 8) since the transplants and are doing very well. The third was recovering well then died suddenly due to gastric bloat and torsion. All three of these dogs had no hope of survival with standard therapy.

We also continue to make good progress with autologous transplants (using the patient as the donor). Around 40% of these patients achieve cures and 10-15% more have disease control for up to two years. In recent weeks, we have added an additional therapy to the protocol (Adoptive Immunotherapy as was recently published by MD Andersen Cancer Research Center) that we suspect will result in an added increment of improvement.

Edmund Sullivan, DVM
Bellingham, WA

 To date, we have completed 3 allogenic stem cell transplants for dogs with lymphoma: Comet, Bailey, and Annabelle. Comet is now three years since his original diagnosis and continues to be disease free. Bailey, our second transplant patient, has recently relapsed with lymphoma (B cell) 6 months since the transplant. Her donor provided a donor lymphocyte infusion to try to boost her immune system against the tumor cells--the outcome of this procedure is still pending. Even though she has relapsed, she continues to feel well and is alert and active. Annabelle, our third transplant patient, is doing very well, and is 6 months since the transplant procedure. Both Bailey and Annabelle are approaching two years since the original diagnosis of lymphoma.

We now have all of the components in place to routinely complete the transplant procedures. The protocols we use are regularly used for people--we have modified them for use in dogs with naturally occurring disease. We have also been sharing our knowledge with Washington State University and Texas A and M University to help them provide transplants for their patients.

On the leukemia front, last summer we identified a dog, Gunner, with acute myelogenous leukemia and completed a trial of LCI, the parthenolide derivative made by Leuchemix. Gunner died of progression of the disease, however before he died significant demonstration of effectiveness of the drug against the leukemia cells was found.

We hope to continue this investigation.

Best wishes to you during this Holiday Season,

Edmund Sullivan, DVM
Bellingham, WA


 Hello everyone.

I have been asked to pass on this very important information.

Dr. Edmund Sullivan, who you may recall, is the wonderful vet from Bellingham Veterinary Critical Care, who did Comet's bone marrow transplant, is now working with a company called Leuchemix, that is developing a new drug to treat acute myeloid and acute lymphoblastic leukemia, two conditions that are often rapidly fatal.

In order to test the in vitro effectiveness of the drug being developed by Leuchemix, Dr. Sullivan and his team, need fresh whole blood or marrow samples from dogs with either of these conditions.

If in vitro effectiveness can be established, then a clinical trial will be set up for dogs with these conditions.

If anyone has questions about this in vitro study, they can contact Dr. Sullivan at the email address or phone numbers listed below.

Edmund Sullivan, DVM
Bellingham Veterinary
720 Virginia St
Bellingham WA 98225

Thank you very much for your help. Together, we can make a difference, and take a bite out of canine cancer.

You are welcome to cross post this information, and updates will be posted on Blues' web site, at www.smilingblueskies.com, in Dr. Sullivan's special section.

You are also welcome to contact Dr. Sullivan directly.

We all remember the story of Comet.

Well, there have been nearly 100 dogs treated for lymphoma with a bone marrow transplant (Actually, the process is stem cell therapy, since there is no collection of actual bone marrow, but rather, the stem cells that reside in the marrow are removed.) during the last 10 years. Most of these patients were treated at North Carolina State University, and the remainder were treated in Bellingham, and two private practices located in Los Angeles and San Diego.

Of all these patients, approximately 40 percent have been long term survivors, that is, free of lymphoma for at least 2 years.

Comet and Annabelle, two of the very first transplant patients, lived out the remainder of their lives, free of lymphoma!

Some of the patients who relapsed following the bone marrow transplant, responded well to rescue therapy, and have been surviving up to 2 years.

Dr. Sullivan told me that there have also been significant improvements in the transplant process itself. Currently, they have an optimal treatment protocol. This protocol involves early planning for a transplant, best done during the first remission, which is usually 6 to 8 weeks following induction chemotherapy, as this allows for a better outcome and reduces the overall cost of lymphoma therapy in general, since the bone marrow transplant process is a definitive therapy that does not require long term chemotherapy.

Further, they identify a tumor marker prior to treatment, to confirm molecular remission, and the medications used to optimize the stem cell collection have also been improved. The machine used for the stem cell collection, called an apheresis machine, has been updated too.

Notably, the process is also significantly less expensive that it was 10 years ago. While it was about $40,000 ten years ago, today, the cost is $12,000 to $15,000 US, depending on the size of the dog.

In addition, over the last 8 months, a special service has been put into place, for the identification of related bone marrow donors for allogenic transplants.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005
What price a pet's life? $45,000 to treat Comet
Here is an Update on Comet's Progress, 21 Months Since His Original Diagnosis, 
and 15 Months Since his Bone Marrow Transplant

Comet has been doing very well and is currently off all medications related to his transplant.  He has no signs of graft versus host disease, is apparently free of lymphoma, and has sustained engraftment.  He runs five miles every day with his owner and other Golden Retriever companion, Ajax.  This month is 21 months since his original diagnosis and 15 months since his transplant.  
Dr. Westfall and Dr. Sullivan, continue working towards providing transplants for additional patients, and they have 8 patients with lymphoma being staged for both allogenic and autologous transplants.  Currently, the cost for an autologous transplant is expected to be around $12K US and an allogenic transplant between $18-20K depending upon the size of the dog, the number of matching studies, and the length of hospitalization.  The doctors hope that these costs will continue to decline as they learn more and streamline the process.  With an autologous transplant they expect to have long term disease free periods in 30% of these patients.  With allogenic transplants with matching DLA donors (sibling donors), they expect up to 60% long term disease free periods.  These numbers are estimates based upon the results of  autologous transplants done 25 years ago adjusted for improvements in chemo protocols and supportive care post transplant. 
It is important that staging for the transplants be started as soon after the initial diagnosis as possible since autologous transplants are best done in the first remission.  Also, the use of Neupogen and un-irradiated blood products before the transplant can interfere with mobilization and engraftment. 

"Comet is like many Golden Retrievers: gentle, devoted, enthusiastically greeting each day wih his wagging, plumed tail. He loves to swim, run in the woods and pack around his large toy hamburger.

But Comet is different. He's one of very few dogs worldwide to receive a stem-cell transplant for cancer treatment, rather than primarily for research. Cost of the therapy: $45,000.

Visit the following link, to read more about the miraculous story of Comet, the Golden Retriever, written by Warren King, Seattle Times Medical Reporter. (Permission has been granted by the Seattle Times, to post this link.


Drs. Edmund Sullivan and Theresa Westfall,
Veterinarians at Bellingham Veterinary & Critical Care
Bellingham, Washington

Drs. Edmund Sullivan and Theresa Westfall, veterinarians at Bellingham Veterinary & Critical Care, located in Bellingham, Washington, have been extraordinary at "pushing the envelope", trying to get treatment for desperately sick animals. They have been working with the researchers at the Fred
Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, located in Seattle, Washington, a world renowned facility for cancer treatment. People come from all over the world, to be treated at FHCRC. You can visit the centre on line, at http://www.fhcrc.org/

Many of you may be familiar with the FHCRC, because of the work they have been doing to "develop the resources necessary to map and clone canine genes, in an effort to utilize dogs as a model system for genetics and cancer research. The Dog Genome Project is moving from the FHCRC to the National Human Genome Research Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, located in Bethesda, Maryland. The project will change its name to the NHGRI Dog Genome Project, and will be found on the web at http://research.nhgri.nih.gov/dog_genome/.

About a year ago, Drs. Sullivan and Westfall and the team at the FHCRC did a bone marrow transplant on a young Golden Retriever from San Juan Island named Comet, who was suffering from T-Cell lymphoma. This was not an experimental treatment, in the sense that most of the bone marrow transplant knowledge for humans, has been gained through work with dogs. However, this was one of the few times, at least in the United States, that a pet had been given a bone marrow transplant for lymphoma. Comet is alive and well, and accompanies his people on a 5 mile run every day. Comet's "one year anniversary" is coming up in a couple of weeks!

The following, is an excerpt from an email, that was just shared with a group of Golden Retriever fanciers and breeders:

"We are currently treating cases of high grade lymphoma (any subtype is fair game, T Cell, B Cell, lymphoblastic, etc.) and leukemia. These two groups are known to respond well to bone marrow transplants--there are literally thousands of people who have been treated. Comet is evidence that current knowledge is out there and potentially can be adapted to treat some of these common forms of cancer in dogs." (Thanks to Nancy Clifton)

If you have a dog with lymphoma, or know of one, they may be eligible for this treatment . This is a fantastic breakthrough. We have all done our homework, and we all know that there is much more homework to be done, but this opens the window of hope even further, for our beloved heart dogs.

Contact Information:

Edmund Sullivan, DVM
Theresa Westfall, DVM
Bellingham Veterinary & Critical Care
720 Virginia Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
360-752-5555 fax

You or your veterinarian can call Bellingham Veterinary and Critical Care, at
360-734-0720. They are located at 720 Virginia Street, Bellingham, WA, USA, 98225.

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