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Vaccination for Canine B-cell Lymphoma and some other aggressive cancers

4 December 2015

This is an exciting, cutting edge treatment which has been made possible by lots of research and an increased understanding of cancer biology, including how we can harness the immune system to help in our fight against cancer. The other advantage is that this treatment is given alongside current standard treatment options, so patients need not forego the” tried and tested” options – this is simply an additional therapy to the norm.

This technique is currently, to the author’s knowledge, only being performed in the UK at Willows Referral Service in Solihull.

Lymphoma is a cancer of the white blood cells called lymphocytes which naturally live in most organs/tissues of the body. Dogs with lymphoma (mostly either B or T cell types) may have a variety of signs of ill-health, but most present with firm, non-painful and massive enlargement of the superficial lymph nodes ('glands'). Chemotherapy is usually extremely effective for dogs with B-cell lymphoma, but in most cases the survival time is only a year on average, even with the most effective chemotherapy agents, due to the cancer becoming resistant in the later stages (see Lymphoma in Dogs: Diagnosis and Treatment Information Sheet for further information).

One promising approach to improve outcome in addition to chemotherapy is the delivery of a vaccine consisting of hydroxyappatite ceramic powder and proteins purified from the patients’ own individual tumour cells, such as Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs). HSPs are made by the body under stressful situations (including cancer) to protect the body’s cells from damage and play a key role in stimulating an immune response. HSPs bind to proteins on the tumour cells and stimulate an immune response.

In dogs with B-cell lymphoma, some studies show improved outcome when this vaccine is combined with traditional chemotherapy and the safety and tolerability appears to be excellent.

Given that all tumours possess proteins capable of immune stimulation, this vaccination technique is not limited simply to B-cell lymphoma. Indeed other tumours, including aggressive cancers with no other suitable/viable chemotherapy options may also benefit.

Your primary care vet should discuss cases with a Willows Oncology Specialist if referral is sought.



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