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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Man Meets Dog With Same Brain Cancer Treatment

Updated: May 15th, 2024

A recent article in USA Today featured a man who met a dog receiving the same kind of experimental brain cancer treatment.

Two years ago, John Huls underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for a brain tumor.  He opted against continued chemotherapy and radiation for brain cancer treatment due to side effects.  He then enrolled in a clinical trial for an experimental vaccination made from brain cancer cells.  The vaccine stimulates the immune system to combat his brain tumor.

Remarkably, he recently met a 14 year old Golden Retriever named Piper, who is also enrolled in a clinical study, at the University of Minnesota Veterinary School.  Piper is a canine brain cancer patient, and is also receiving an experimental vaccine for his brain tumor.

Cancer in dogs is very similar to cancer in people.  As a matter of fact, the similarities are so great that dogs are being used commonly to gain information about human cancers.  The area of cancer study between species is called comparative oncology.

These similarities are fortunate for a variety of reasons.  Much of the leading research in human medicine was used in the development of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide and Apocaps, since human research is even more extensive than veterinary studies.

One of the reasons cancer cells are able to grow and divide in the body is that they are able to evade the immune system.  The body has difficulty recognizing that these are harmful cells, and for the most part ignores them.

Cancer vaccines are useful in helping the immune system recognize cancer cells, and stimulates immune system activity against these cells.  A similar approach was used in developing the first canine cancer vaccine, used to treat melanoma.

Not only are cancers able to avoid immune detection, they also are capable of suppressing the immune system.  This effect weakens the body, both dog and human, and increases the odds of infection.  To make matters worse, chemotherapy drugs may also suppress the immune system. For these reasons, the use of immune stimulating supplements is an important part of the Full Spectrum Care strategy recommended in the Guide.


Dr D

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  1. Roy on October 26, 2011 at 4:05 am

    Our beagle Rilley is about to complete his participation in the brain tumor trial at the University of Minnesota. It has nearly been a year since he underwent surgery at the skillful hands of Dr. Liz Pluhar and Dr. Matthew Hunt, followed by six rounds of Dr. John Ohlfest’s experimental vaccines. We are pleased to say that thanks to these dedicated professionals, Rilley is still with us today and thriving. We will be returning to the University early next month for his one year physical exam and MRI. It is truly gratifying to know that the knowledge gained by their research is being used to help people.

    We created a blog to record Rilley’s journey through the world of brain cancer, it can be found at There you can also find a story produced by Discovery Channel Canada’s science programme “Daily Planet” about Rilley’s treatment.

    Roy Janke.

  2. KR on October 8, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Hi Dr. Dressler, My dog was diagnosed with a brain tumor (meningioma). We are giving him Petsiac (Essiac formulation), Chihko-Curcuma (Seven Forests) and Gynostemma (Seven Forests). There are some articles that talk about not giving Essiac for brain tumor due to risk of the tumor breaking up in small pieces and causing bleeding in brain…where as other articles dispute that. Is there a safe dose of Petsiac that can be given to a small pet (about 12lbs) ? At the same time, if it is not effective at a small dosage, it does not make much sense to give it. So, I am in a dilemma. Thanks! KR

    • Demian Dressler on October 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm

      Dear KR,
      I think this is a pretty low risk. As to dose, the vet monitoring the treatment is the best one to be advising you as dosing will vary. I would have this practitioner consider ruta-6
      Don’t forget the dog cancer diet, immune support like beta glucans, and the other treatments in the Guide)
      Hope this helps.

  3. Patti on September 30, 2011 at 6:22 am

    We just lost our 11 year old Golden Retriever to cardiac hermangiosarcoma after a 10 month battle. He had 1 dose of doxirubicen and got violently ill from that. We then did 5 round of radiation to his heart everyday for 5 days. He also took piroxicam and cyclophasimide and algal fish oil. He was fed cooked ground turkey, organic broccoli, cooked oatmeal and pumpkin. We aren’t sure what kept him going for 10 months but he was happy and active until about 3 weeks ago when it spread to his liver. This disease is just awful and from what I hear Golden’s are most prone to it. The clinic we went to is California Veterinary Specialists in Carlsbad, Ca. The Dr we used is Dr. David Proulx

    • Demian Dressler on October 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Dear Patti
      our hearts go out to your during this sad time of departures.
      All my best

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