Immunotherapy is an option for some dogs with cancer, especially for dogs that have osteosarcoma or lymphoma. Immunotherapy uses the dog's own immune system to fight the cancer, rather than killing both heathy cells and cancer cells with chemotherapy.
How Immunotherapy Works
The approach to using a dog's immune system to fight osteosarcoma is autologous adoptive T-cell therapy. T-cells are specialized white blood cells that patrol the body to find cells that shouldn't be there, both microorganisms and cancer cells. They send signals called cytokines to the rest of the immune system to come to a disease-causing microbe or a cancer cell to attack it with inflammation.
In autologous adoptive T-cell therapy, a sample of the dog's blood is taken and the T-cells are removed with a centrifuge. (The process is called autologous because it uses the dog's own T-cells, eliminating any potential problem with rejection.) The T-cells are cultured so they multiply. Then the multiplied T-cells are injected back into the dog's bloodstream so they can fight the cancer.
CAR-T Cell Therapy for Lymphoma
There are also dogs with lymphoma that are treated with a process called chimeric antigen-receptor T-cell therapy, commonly referred to as CAR-T cell therapy. Like autologous adoptive T-cell therapy, CAR-T cell therapy starts with the removal of a sample of the dogs T-cells.
In CAR-T cell therapy, however, the dog's T-cells are genetically modified to make them chimeric, with a mixture of natural and artificially enhanced characteristics. They are infected with a harmless virus that modifies their DNA to produce a protein that acts as a kind of "radar" for cancerous blood cells. With this enhancement, the dog's immune system is better able to identify the cancer and fight it.
After the genetically modified T-cells have multiplied in the lab, the dog is given a light treatment of chemotherapy and then a transfusion of the T-cells. This part of the procedure just takes a couple of hours. The treatment is ‘one-and-done’. This is no follow-up chemo or radiation.
CAR-T cell therapy has been used to treat lymphoma and leukemia in humans for several years. It is FDA-approved and covered by Medicare for people. It is extremely effective; about 90 percent of humans who get this this treatment go into remission after just one session.
The 10 percent of people who do not get this treatment usually have had so much chemotherapy that their immune systems don't have enough healthy T-cells to modify. There can also be issues with the chemicals used to keep the T-cells from clumping in the machine used to collect them and in the IV used to give them back to the patient.
Both procedures are expensive. They may be covered by insurance or there may be a clinical trial for your dog that will cover the expense of this treatment. If you invest in immunotherapy, however, you should also invest in the best food for dogs with cancer, an Integrated Nutrition System with human-grade food for dogs, wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil and premium supplements.
Dogs with cancer need a specific diet because it is so hard for them to eat and hold food down. When they can eat, they need the best. They also need the omega-3 essential fatty acids in wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil so their bodies can make hormones that help limit excessive inflammation. Learn more about how Canine Biologics can keep your dog as happy and active as possible.