MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The University of Minnesota brought together a couple of brain cancer patients with very similar stories, but with one major difference. John Huls is a man and Piper is a Golden Retriever.
They are both part of the same Glioma treatment group.
On Monday, Piper was a special guest at the University. She was back for her final shot of a vaccine, which is made from the cells found in the tumor a veterinary surgeon cut out of her brain.
“What we’re trying to do with the vaccine is to turn on the body’s immune system,” said Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar, a veterinary surgeon at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center.
In many ways, Huls owes his life to Piper and her doctor.
The treatment worked so well on Piper and 49 other dogs that a similar vaccine is being tested on eight people. WCCO-TV introduced you to Zach and Batman about a month ago, and, on Monday, the University introduced Piper and Huls to each other.
“I’ve always been a dog lover,” said Huls, a retired stockbroker and Air Force pilot from St. Cloud.
Huls had his tumor removed two years ago at the Mayo Clinic. In July, he started the experimental treatment at the University,
“I’ve never felt better,” he said. “I have good stamina, vitality and my cognitive functions are as good as they ever were.”
“I just had twin boys last year,” said his daughter, Becky. “They’re 15 months old now, so if that original prognosis, you know, turned out, he wouldn’t have even met them. And now … we’re just up at the cabin together.”
“To hear how good he feels,” said Pluhar, “I just can’t even express how wonderful that makes me feel, that we started here with, you know, the dogs.”
Dr. John Ohlfest leads the human trial. He said since the vaccine seems to work without surgery, the next trial will focus on children with tumors in their brain stems, where they can’t even try surgery.