Palladia, the first drug officially approved for use in treating dog cancer has arrived. This was described in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide by it’s pre-market name, SU11654. Now it’s finally ready for release.
Palladia, made by Pfizer, has been approved by the FDA. It is expected to be available next year. This drug is approved for treating mast cell tumors in the dog.
The fact that this is the first drug approved for dog cancer may be odd for many. What about all those chemotherapy drugs that are used? They are not FDA approved?
Well, the facts are that vets and veterinary oncologists have been using human drugs the whole time. As a matter of fact, many of the drugs we use generally are not FDA-approved for use in the canine.
It turns out that FDA drug approval is allowed for one species at a time. On top of that, approval is for one disease or problem. In veterinary medicine, we have cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, monkeys, snakes, and so on…many different species, and they all need treatment.
It would take hundred of years and staggering amounts of money to get all our drugs approved for all these different species and diseases.
So vets have “off-label” drug use privileges. Off-label drug use means we can use drugs approved for one species (including humans) freely in other species.
Let’s take a look at some of the facts around Palladia.
Like most of the conventional treatments we use in treating dogs with cancer, the numbers for Palladia are a bit disheartening.
The median duration of objective response (meaning how long the Palladia’s effect lasted on mast cell tumors) was 12 weeks. Yes, 3 months of tumor shrinkage or disappearance is what you can expect. This number is taken from the original study.
After 3 months the cancer came back.
On top of this, not all dogs with mast cell tumors even responded. It turns out that roughly 40% of dog with mast cell tumors will actually respond to the drug, while the majority do not.
This means that while about 40% of the time the cancer either went away or shrank, in the remaining 60% of dogs Palladia had no effect.
If you would like to look at the original data for yourself, here is the link.
This highlights important points.
First, there is a big to do about Palladia. But, the actual statistics are depressing. Interesting contrast between hype and reality.
Second, I think most guardians of dogs afflicted with mast cell tumors would not be jumping for joy at these numbers, in spite of the festivities at Pfizer.
Lastly, this shows how important it is to leap sideways in our efforts to really treat canine cancer.
The more I think about dog cancer, and disease in general, the more I believe early choices are key, long before old age.
I will start addressing how dog cancer does not start in old age, in future posts. Instead, it starts many, many years before hand. We need to start taking steps earlier, much earlier.
Best to all,