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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Health


New era dawns in canine cancer treatment; 
drug developed specifically for use in dogs

The first drug developed specifically for cancer in dogs is being hailed as "an important step forward for veterinary medicine" and the ushering in of a new era in canine cancer treatment.Palladia has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of mast cell tumors, a skin-based cancer that can be lethal if it penetrates below the skin and spreads to lymph nodes and other body parts. Mast cell tumors are the second most common tumor in dogs, according to Pfizer Animal Health, maker of the drug.

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"This cancer drug approval for dogs is an important step forward for veterinary medicine," Bernadette Dunham, director of FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, states in a media release. "Prior to this approval, veterinarians had to rely on human oncology drugs, without knowledge of how safe or effective they would be for dogs. Today's approval offers dog owners, in consultation with their veterinarian, an option for treatment of their dog's cancer."
All cancer drugs now used in veterinary medicine originally were developed for use in humans and are used in animals in an “extra-label” manner as allowed by the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994.

The Morris Animal Foundation of Denver - which has launched a global campaign to raise $30 million money to find a cure for cancer in dogs in the next 10 to 20 years - says one in four dogs die of cancer, and the disease is the number one cause of death in dogs over age 2. Some of the most popular breeds are especially susceptible to cancer. Sixty percent of Golden Retrievers die of the disease.

Pfizer estimates 1.2 million new canine cancer cases are reported in the United States every year.

Mast cell tumors often appear as small, insignificant lumps in the skin, but they can be a serious form of cancer in dogs, according to the FDA. Some mast cell tumors can be easily surgically removed without the development of further problems, while others can lead to life-threatening disease if left untreated.Palladia (toceranib phosphate) is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor and works by killing tumor cells and cutting off the blood supply to the tumor. The drug, an oral medication, has been approved to treat the tumors with or without regional lymph node involvement. The most common side effects are diarrhea, decrease or loss of appetite, lameness, weight loss and blood in the stool.

“Palladia is an exciting, new treatment option for dogs with mast cell tumors,” Cheryl London, a medical oncologist and associate professor at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, states in a media release from the company. London has been helping Pfizer since 2000 in the development of the drug.

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Adjustments also should be made based on an animal's health, Dr. Murray said. "A veterinarian must always be consulted before using spot-on flea and tick treatments on very young, old, sick or pregnant pets."

A clinical study found that approximately 60 percent of dogs had their tumors disappear, shrink or stop growing, Dr. London said. "Also, we determined that dogs whose tumors responded to Palladia experienced an improved quality of life.”

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