Right now, there's a trial underway with a new vaccine that's keeping dogs, cats and horses with certain types of cancer alive without chemotherapy or radiation. Local veterinarians say they are thrilled with this medical breakthrough.
So far there are very few, if any, side effects and it's much less expensive then traditional treatments. Southeast Veterinary Oncology and Medicine in Orange Park is using the vaccine now and really seeing great results.
Veterinarian Dr. Tracey LaDue knows what it's like to go through chemotherapy. She's a breast cancer survivor, but when it comes to our pets, doctors focus on quality of life, not quantity.
"Some of those tools are pretty heavy and it's our goal in veterinarian oncology to not cause any side effects when we treat with chemo and radiation, and there have been zero effects with this vaccination to date," explained LaDue.
Abby is a dog that has been on the vaccine for years. She has improved greatly since she first came to the vet.
"She couldn't even stand up," said Abby's owner, Kendall Bryan. "I mean, it was like she went from swimming the day before, well not swimming, but out running, playing tennis ball with me like she does every day, and all of the sudden she couldn't even stand up."
Abby's been with the Bryan family since she was a puppy so when they later found out it was cancer, they were determined to do whatever they could to keep her alive.
"You can probably still see she doesn't have fur, but it was right under here the lymph node that was biopsied," said Bryan.
Experts told Local 6 each vaccine is tailored specifically for each patient. Lymph nodes are taken from the body and then taken to a lab in Tampa, where they are combined with a harmless bacteria. That creates the vaccine which goes back into the body, and the idea here is that your body and your immune system will then seek out the cancer and fight it.
"The scientists at Morphogenesis have figured out a way to make the cancer cells be recognized by the immune system. Normally cancer cells are hanging out in your body and we have no idea that we have them, and the immune system is not doing its thing," explained LaDue.
Right now, they're looking for dogs with B cell lymphoma, exactly what Abby has. She's got a month left of the vaccine and the hope is she can spend this winter in one of her favorite places in the North Carolina mountains.
"When she knows we're going, she's jumping all over the place and jumping in the car because she loves it up there because it's 2,100 feet up," said Bryan. "It's next to a national historic site that has like 15 miles of hiking trails."
"She's got a super heart. We're really hoping that she's going to finish up and get that trip to the mountains that dad wants," added LaDue.
For more information about the free trial, talk with your veterinarian. You can also contact Southeast Veterinary Oncology and Medicine in Orange park at 904-278-3870. There, they will do a free test to see if your dog is eligible for the vaccine. If so, the vaccine is absolutely free.