A cancer we see in from time to time veterinary hospitals is called squamous cell carcinoma.
Even though it is not as common as other cancers in dogs, for any dog lover coping with this diagnosis, it is a huge issue. These cancers are not fun.
First of all, especially in advanced cases, they are hard to remove completely. They tend to spread out into neighboring tissue, making complete removal hard at times. Sometimes they occur in areas that are hard to operate in like the nose or some areas in the mouth.
Sometimes radiation is used for squamous cell carcinoma treatment. Radiation can help shrink them to some extent.
If you are close to a veterinary university, you may be able to access photodynamic therapy, which is a way to use light waves to shrink these cancers. This technique has shown real promise.
Another problem with squamous cell carcinomas is they have not responded well to chemotherapy. However, we may be looking at some new developments in this area that could help squamous cell carcinomas.
Recently it has been uncovered that this type of cancer, and some others, may be susceptible to a particular class of substances. These are known as COX-2 inhibitors. Read more here.
Usually, these are drugs that have been used to control inflammation. Now it is being shown that they may help induce cancer cell suicide, and this cancer type is one where they may help.
Cancer cell suicide is called apoptosis.
Although we do not yet have perfect drugs to create this anti-cancer effect, there is some evidence that some of the COX-2 inhibitor drugs may help.
For those who want to use pharmaceuticals, an option to discuss is piroxicam. This was shown to help a bit in almost a third of dogs with squamous cell tumors. Here is the study to read for yourself.
There are also some natural compounds that can help. I have written about these at length in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, and also in this blog. These include things like curcumin, luteolin and others.
These substances are able to shut down the enzyme COX-2. This enzyme makes a chemical signal in the body called PGE-2. This chemical signal is a central player in the onset of cancer as well as progression. It is nasty.
PGE-2 makes cancer cells resist apoptosis, which means they don’t die (like they should). Apoptosis genes that are supposed to be turned on in cancer cells, after they get deranged and start multiplying. Chemical signals like this one prevent these genes from turning on, and cancer cells are able to keep growing instead of being dismantled by apoptosis.
Your oncologist will be abreast of this information, and many veterinarians in private practice will be as well. However, if your dog has a squamous cell tumor and this topic has not come up, don’t be afraid to be your dog’s health advocate and bring it up!
You can get these supplements on line. Apocaps contains these agents in combination form, or you can get the indivudual ones. Here and here are some other posts on these supplements for more information.
All my best,
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.