Beautiful dog during medical appointmentCancer affects our lives every day, and cancer in our pets is no exception. We are constantly on the hunt to find better, more effective ways to treat and hopefully cure cancers of all types. Oakland Veterinary Referral Services has an oncology department dedicated to helping our patients beat cancer, and this means incorporating the newest and most promising techniques into our treatment protocols.

Immunotherapy is one of those newer and more cutting edge ways to combat cancer. While knowledge about this technique is still in its infancy, we are learning more and more every day about how it can be used in our pets. Immunotherapy for cancer in pets is just one of the powerful tools we at OVRS have in our arsenal to defeat this disease.

The 4-1-1 on Immunotherapy

Cancer treatments in general are aimed at defeating the abnormal cells that are growing within the body. Historically we have targeted these out-of-control cells with procedures such as radiation and chemotherapy. In recent years, however,  we have begun to ask the question: Can we use the body’s own immune system to mount a fight against this defective growth?

The answer appears to be yes, however the technology behind this type of attack is still in its early stages. The problem is that every type of cancer is different, so each type of immunotherapy (essentially a cancer vaccine) must be developed individually.

Immunotherapy for cancer potentially has two main purposes:

  1. Stimulate the immune system to fight existing tumors, destroy cancer cells that have metastasized, and prevent recurrence of that cancer down the road
  2. Potentially prevent healthy animals from developing cancer

The possibilities are incredible, but we have only begun to open the door to this exciting world.

How We Are Using Immunotherapy for Cancer in Pets

Despite immunotherapy for cancer being a relatively new treatment option, we are able to use this incredible technology to help some of our pet cancer patients at OVRS.

Perhaps the most well-established veterinary immunotherapy vaccine is utilized for oral melanoma in dogs. This vaccine first gained conditional FDA approval in 2007 and has been demonstrated to lengthen the life expectancy of dogs with this particular type of cancer.

Recently, another immunotherapy treatment called Immunocidin has also been released as a treatment option for dogs with mammary cancer.

In human medicine, doctors are using laboratory-derived antibodies to bind to the surface of cancer cells and mark them for destruction. This is another type of immunotherapy that is promising. To date, there are no approved treatments of this type in veterinary medicine.

Our hope is that one day there will be effective immunotherapy options for many more types of cancer in our veterinary patients. While this may still be a way off in the future, you can rest assured that OVRS is always on the brink of the newest and best for your pet.