Dog becomes first to survive clinical trial for one of the most - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Dog becomes first to survive clinical trial for one of the most deadly pet cancers

Posted: Updated: Jun 13, 2018 1:17 PM
Inez Vazquez, a registered veterinary technician, sits with Josie. Inez Vazquez, a registered veterinary technician, sits with Josie.
Rebecca Krimins, assistant professor of radiology and radiological science, poses with Josie. Rebecca Krimins, assistant professor of radiology and radiological science, poses with Josie.

Josie, a terrier mix from Owings Mills, Md., was the first dog to survive a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins Hospital aimed at finding a treatment for hemangiosarcoma, one of the most deadly cancers for pets.

Josie was diagnosed in December 2017 with cancer in the lining of the blood vessels. Josie's owners, Wes and Heidi Robertson, took Josie to a veterinary surgeon who said she would have two days to live if he did not remove her tumors. Josie could have up to a month if he has a successful surgery, but there was an 80% chance he would have to put her down during the procedure.

"We opted to do the surgery, and he removed her spleen. He said he was taking ping pong ball-sized tumors out of her, and she's not a big dog," Wes Robertson said. "The cancer, at that point, was just everywhere in there, but he removed the tumors that he could."

After Josie survived surgery, her doctors referred her to the clinical trial at the Johns Hopkins Center for Image-Guided Animal Therapy to test an FDA-approved drug normally used in humans to slow the spread of breast cancer. The drug's name is not available to the public.

Veterinarians Dara Kraitchman and Rebecca Krimins, researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore who ran the clinical trial, said no dogs other than Josie have survived the duration of the trial because they purposefully chose participants who had aggressive forms of the disease to test the drug's efficacy in the most acute cases.

Though 13 dogs were screened for the trial, only three were selected to participate because their cancer had spread throughout their body, and they were able to "absorb" this form of chemotherapy, according to Krimins.

"Hamangiosarcoma is a bad disease. It's an incurable disease. It's always fatal." Krimins said.

Always a fighter

Josie returned to her normal self while being treated with chemotherapy. She would play with the Robertsons' two-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and she had more energy.

"She was great. She ate her food, and she was running around and playing tug of war, and it was great. She was so active," Wes Robertson said. "As we kept going with the chemo, that just continued. She'd be tired the night of the chemo, and she wouldn't eat that night, but then by the next day she was really great.'

Kraitchman and Krimins also said Josie was cheerful during chemotherapy, often jumping up to greet her veterinarians and sleeping in their laps even while she was receiving treatment.

"Josie has been a wonderful dog. She's a sweetheart of a dog, and she's been a fighter of a dog. She had a really bad disease, and yet she took her chemotherapy treatments bimonthly," Krimins said.

Even before being diagnosed with cancer, Josie was always a fighter.

By the time she was 12 years old - 84 in dog years - Josie had had surgery on her stomach, intestines and elbow. She also had a hematoma, or swelling around a blood clot, in her ear, and she was injured after being attacked by a bigger dog in October 2017. She also had both knees repaired in September 2015. After that, she began losing her hearing and eyesight with age.

The Robertsons adopted Josie in May 2007. Wes said she was an adventurous dog who was curious about everything, even when it got her into trouble.

"She loved truck rides, and she loved everybody. So, once, a truck pulled up, and she was just running around. She jumped right into the person's truck, jumped right into their lap, and just hopped up to give them kisses," Wes Robertson said. "She just sat in the passenger seat like, 'Okay, where are we going now.'"

Krimins and Kraitchman also said Josie's family's dedication to the study was important to her success in the trial.

"It takes the whole family to make these trials happen. Sometimes the husband had to work and we needed Josie here to give chemotherapy and his wife would take over and vice versa," Krimins said. "So it is a family ordeal, and it takes everyone committing to it, and they have just been a great family and Josie has been a wonderful dog."

Hope for other pets

Although Krimins and Kraitchman's research is still ongoing, the veterinarians said Josie and the other two dogs who participated in the study, which began in April 2017, have contributed to their understanding of how chemotherapy treatments can lengthen a dog's life. Krimins and Kraitchman are currently renegotiating with the sponsor for their trial, hoping to provide better therapies for dogs and cats with cancer.

"Often we don't find cancer until fairly late in a lot of our diseases in our pets, and that makes it a lot more challenging to treat it as well," Kraitchman said.

Josie died in June 2018. The Robertsons said they are glad they went through with the study because it gave them six more months with Josie.

"Everyone who met her said she's the best dog they've ever known," Heidi Roberston said. "She was just special."

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 Midwest Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.