Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Canine Melanoma Vaccine:
Miracle or Myth?

Last month my dog had surgery to remove a large tumor. The tumor was sent for a biopsy, suspecting carcinoma, but much to my and the vet's dismay, it was melanoma -- a carcinoma is often well circumscribed and vets have a better chance of completely removing it during surgery than a melanoma.

Only one month later, the area was swelling again and the vet found that the tumor had rapidly grown back, even larger than before. This was the moment I had feared. The moment I learned that there was nothing I could do to help my best pal but keep him as comfy as possible until it affected his quality of life.

Two days later, after coming to terms with the situation and beginning my ritual spoiling my dog to no avail, I received several phone calls from friends and family citing a clip they had seen on the Today Show or read on MSNBC about a "new" vaccine for canine melanoma.

As soon as I went online to start researching this, I discovered that the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine (UW) has been producing a vaccine for canine melanoma since 1998 and the Animal Medical Center in New York has treated at least 100 dogs with a new vaccine with some success. I called a local oncologist and have an appointment to find out more about my dog's options.

Through my preliminary research, I have found out that, in order to participate in the AMC study, I must bring my dog to New York and leave him there for a month or so and his melanoma must be oral or of the toe or footpad (my dog's melanoma is not in any of those areas); but I can participate in the UW study right here, through my local vet, for an $1800 donation to UW. That's all I have found, thus far, no statistics on success or information about side effects.

For those of you interested in the real scoop about this vaccine, and not just the five second news hype, check back later this week for further findings.

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