MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When a vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Camilla McGraw’s Golden Retriever, she took Monty to the Veterinary Medical Center at the University of Minnesota. The news wasn’t good.
“He had an extremely aggressive form of Stage 5 lymphoma,” said McGraw. “Extremely aggressive. We were told we might not make it to a month, and here we are — January.”
On Facebook, Monty’s human friends have followed his progress. He has had chemotherapy, acupuncture and a diet makeover.
On Sunday, McGraw will make a road trip south for a possible cure. North Carolina State’s College of Veterinary Medicine is the first veterinary program in the nation to offer canine bone marrow transplants in a clinical setting. Monty won’t receive another dog’s marrow, but his own.
“They basically take all the good stuff out of him, spin it in this machine,” explained McGraw. “Then they put it back into him.”
The bone marrow transplant will cost about $12,000. Monty’s chemo treatments and other University of Minnesota treatment rang up at $3,000. It’s a lot of money to spend on a pet, but McGraw and her husband consider Monty a member of the family.
“Christmas wasn’t as big this year,” said McGraw with a laugh. “But he’s family. He’s our first baby.”
Dr. Claire Cannon is an oncology resident in the University of Minnesota’s program. She cared for Mark Dayton’s dog Dakota who died on Wednesday. She feels her job is all about telling people what’s possible.
“My role is to give them options and allow them to make a decision that they’re happy with,” she said.
There are better diagnostic tools now and many of the same treatments humans get — chemotherapy, radiation and targeted molecular therapies.
“A lot of people are not aware of the options that are out there, and some cancers are very treatable and some are more aggressive,” Cannon said.
Cannon’s colleague Dr. Jaime Modiano heads up the University’s Animal Cancer Care and Research Program.
“I work with dogs and cancer all day, every day,” he said.
When standard care options aren’t a good choice, Modiano encourages people to take part in clinical trials.
“You would be amazed,” he said. “About probably 70 or 80 percent of people look at those options and decide they want to participate and do something.”
That decision offers hope for their pets as well as promise for pets and humans.
“Even if their dog doesn’t do well, they know that their dog will eventually help other dogs and help other people,” said Modiano. “I think that’s a great motivator.”
Clinical trials often offer free or subsidized care for sick pets. The U is currently looking for 80 dogs with brain cancer to take part in a trial. Modiano doesn’t want anyone to give up on their dog without first checking on research opportunities at the University. Modiano believes “the last thing they should ever lose is hope.”
Paula Engelking, Producer
WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha Reports