Brain Tumors in Dogs

  • Batman and Dr. Pluhar
  • Baxter and bowl
  • Boo Min
  • boxer
  • Hunter and Carol
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  • Nikki closeup
  • rilley and sarah
  • Sarah
  • Trapp

Despite the diagnosis of a brain tumor, there is hope for your dog.  Our clinical trials program has successfully treated dogs using novel, less toxic therapies to achieve tumor regression and long-term survival in many cases.

 To download a brochure containing detailed information on clinical trials

click here


Background Information on canine brain tumors

Brain tumors occur more frequently in dogs than in humans (20 per year per 100,000 canine populations at risk compared with 18.1 per 100,000 humans). Canine glioma, an aggresive brian tumor, occurs most commonly in brachycephalic breeds such as Boxers and Boston terriers. But canine glioma can occur in many other breeds as well.  No sex predilection has been reported and brain tumors are recognized with greater incidence in animals over six years of age. Gliomas arise in many areas of the brain, most commonly in the pyriform lobes, cerebral hemispheres, thalamus, hypothalamus, and brain stem.

We and others have found many similarities between human and canine brain tumors such as: overexpression of the epidermal growth factor receptor and mutation of the p53 tumor suppressor gene, extensive invasion into normal brain, peritumoral edema and necrosis, hemorrhage, compression, herniation, or obstructive hydrocephalus. Similar to that in humans, the prognosis for dogs with brain tumors in general has been poor regardless of therapeutic intervention. However, much less is known about canine glioma treatment outcomes because only several studies have been reported. In general, traditional therapy for canine glioma has consisted of radiation and steroids; these interventions have not been curative and have not extended survival beyond several months in most cases.

History of our canine brain tumor clincial trials program

In 2005, collaborators (Drs. John Ohlfest, Ph.D. and G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D.) initiated a canine glioma research program at the University of Minnesota (UMN) Veterinary Medical Center (VMC).  In 2008, our team was strengthened by the regular collaboration with human neurosurgeons (Drs. Steven Haines and Matthew Hunt).

Our team left to right: Drs. Hunt, Haines, Ohlfest, Pluhar

Our goal is to offer cutting edge therapy to dogs intended to preserve quality of life and improve long-term survival rates.  Additionally, we will use the information gained from treating dogs to design similar treatments for people with brain tumors. The majority of cost associated with these experimental brain tumor therapies is paid for by grants from foundation and government agencies including the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund, the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the American Brain Tumor Association.  Learn more about the clinical trials program and our team:  click here 

Preliminary evidence of effectiveness of immunotherapy

Immunotherapy and immunogene therapy are novel treatments designed to stimulate anti-tumor immune responses. The theoretical appeal of using the immune system to treat cancer is specificity (reducing toxicity) and persistence (reducing tumor recurrence).  We are now enrolling dogs diagnosed with several types of brain tumors for clinical trials (see links above).  Initial results have been very encouraging; many treated dogs survived for months with no evidence of tumor re-growth measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans (see testimonials).  Our first canine patient, affectionately named "Batman" by his owners, survived over 18 months with good quality of life.  Batman died of causes unrelated to brain tumor recurrence.  Below is an example of one dog treated by immunotherapy that exhibited a four-fold reduction in tumor size as shown by MRI.  In addition, at the time this scan was taken the dog had regained quality of life comparable to that before he had a brain tumor.  





Latest News

  • Dr. Ohlfest speaks to NY times about comparative oncology
  • University of Minnesota to Host Brain Tumor Symposium
  • Human Clinical Trial and Dog Trial on CBS news
  • Touching story: our human patient meets our dog patient
  • Minnesota Public Radio gives update on human clinical trial

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