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Can dogs help unlock cure to brain cancer?

(WCAX)
Published: Dec. 5, 2019 at 3:56 PM EST
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Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are studying a new experimental treatment for dogs with brain cancer. They hope their research will lead to treatments for people.

"Billie," a 10-year-old Boston terrier, was having trouble walking and was experiencing seizures earlier this year. She was diagnosed with glioma, a type of brain cancer. Like brain cancer in people, it’s not curable. Billie likely had weeks to live.

Then the Corea family was told Billie was a candidate for a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University where a team of veterinarians, radiologists and physicists is studying a new experimental treatment for dogs with brain cancer. Doctors pinpoint the blood vessels that feed the tumor and inject microscopic radioactive glass beads through a catheter.

"They actually release their radiation directly into the tumor and without affecting the surrounding tissue," said Dr. Clifford Weiss, an associate professor of radiology at Johns Hopkins.

Five dogs have been treated so far. On an MRI scan of Billie's brain, the tumor can be seen shrinking.

Doctors already use this type of treatment for people with liver cancer. While more study is needed, the team hopes this approach can treat human brain tumors in the next few years.

"Being able to introduce therapies that may help not only dogs but people is really amazing," said Dr. Rebecca Krimins a veterinarian from the Center for Image-Guided Animal Therapy at Johns Hopkins.

Billie's owner, Nick Corea, says the potential to help people with cancer was a big draw for enrolling Billie in the research. He is a childhood cancer survivor.

"I was hoping that Billie could be part of that," Corea said, "where one day more people could live because of what Billie went through."

He hopes Billie can be one of the keys that unlocks a cure for brain cancer.

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