Dogs paving way for potential new cancer treatment for humans - CBS Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Dogs are paving the way for a potential new cancer treatment for human beings, and the revolutionary therapy is being tested in Philadelphia.

It's being called a game changer that could eventually save lives, for pets and people. It's a joint research project between PennVet and Penn Medicine. Heartworm For Puppy

Dogs paving way for potential new cancer treatment for humans - CBS Philadelphia

Dogs with cancer are getting a new kind of human proton radiation that could update the treatment for people.

Maple was back at PennVet for a checkup. The 13-year-old lab has rare cancer in her mouth called oral osteosarcoma.

"Being able to have her still with me and have her happy and healthy and have her be a part of this has been really important and really special," Megan Ruller, Maple's owner, said.

Ruller, who's also a vet, decided to let Maple be the first to test a new radiation therapy that could eventually be used on people.

"This is a really exciting therapy. It's called flash radiotherapy," Dr. Keith Cengel with Penn Medicine said. "And the idea is that we can give the radiation at a very, very high dose rate. And what that does, we think, is it will hit the tumor the same but it will spare the normal tissue. So you get the same effect on tumor with less side effects."

The radiation happens at Penn Medicine's Roberts Proton Therapy Center after human patients have left. It is the most precise form of advanced radiation therapy.

"It's incredibly fast, dose rate using proton radiotherapy," Cengel said. "We're pioneering it here."

If the research is successful on animals, it's expected to pave the way for a new kind of proton treatment for humans.

Maple has had two doses.

"Her tumor is still there, but what we've done is really greatly reduced the bleeding from the tumor, the irritation, the inflammation and pain," Dr. Brian Flesner with PennVet said. "And so Maple's home life is a lot more improved just with her eating, drinking, playing with toys, those kinds of things."

Before getting sick, Maple was a service dog for children with autism.

Ruller says her gentle friendly personality was perfect with kids and her dedication to service lives on.

"The fact that she was able to participate in this clinical trial felt full circle for me," Ruller said. "She's able to give back and be of service even in her retired years."

Maple is one of three dogs to be part of the research so far. Penn is hoping to include a total of nine dogs. They're seeking dogs with head or neck cancers.

People can call the Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center at 215-573-0302 to see if their dog qualifies.

Stephanie Stahl is an Emmy Award-winning health reporter. She can be seen daily on CBS3 Eyewitness News and The CW Philly.

First published on December 7, 2022 / 6:46 PM

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Dogs paving way for potential new cancer treatment for humans - CBS Philadelphia

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