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

Dog Cancer and the Malaria Drug Artemisinin, Part 2

Updated: December 18th, 2018

This is a continuation post on artemisinin, a compound that is found sweet wormwood. This agent is currently used for malaria treatment. Recently there has been interest in it’s application in dog cancer treatment. It has caught on in bone cancer care for dogs (osteosarcoma).

In the last post we summarized some mechanisms where artemisinin may help with several different cancer types. There are certainly in vitro (test tube) studies that show artemisinin, or closely related agents, can kill cancer cells.

Unfortunately killing a cancer cell in a petri dish may have nothing to do, whatsoever, with killing cancer in a living body. Hundreds upon hundreds of compounds show promise in the test tube and when used in a lab animal, dog or human do very little to nothing.



Is there evidence that arteminisin, or analogs (an analog is a related compound), work in living bodies?

Well, there is a case report in print out of India where the artemisinin analog artesunate was used to treat a human patient with laryngeal cancer with good results. However, injections were given, in addition to tablets. Dog lovers would need to go to their veterinarians regularly to accomplish this. Click here for the link.

The journal Clinical Cancer Research recently published an article (here is is) that showed that artemisinin was capable of slowing the growth of hepatoma (liver) cancer cells in mice.

There was another article (here you go) that showed some semi-synthetic derivatives of artemisinin helped a mouse model of prostate cancer too.

Finally, kidney cancer cells put in mice showed slowed growth and angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation to feed the cancers) when the mice were treated with the artemisinin analog artesunate. Here is the abstract.

So there’s some evidence that something or other is indeed going on here.


For more information on dog cancer, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide


A new drug is being made by Dr. Lai, one of the original artemisinin guys in cancer treatment at the University of Washinton. The drug improves it’s cancer killing effects by boosting its movement into cancer cells with iron. (See the last artemisinin post for more on the iron topic).

My overall impression here is that we are pretty early in the game to say we have a real contender. Not that we do not have a real contender, just that it seems the hype may not be in proportion to the documented effects. Investigation and consideration is strongly advised!

If you want to investigate and consider artemisinin with your vet or oncologist, the possible dose spread is huge, vaguely around 2 to 15 mg per pound one time a day. There is much variation on recommended doses.

Here is some other info on artemisinin:

Give with some oily material (omega 3 fatty acids would be one option).
Give 1 week on, 1 week off, since the absorption if artemisinin decreases after about 1 week.
Do not use if your dog is on seizure control medication.
Do not use when your dog is getting radiation.
Possibly can be used with most chemo agents, but all interactions have not been assessed.
Antixodant effects may interfere with artmesinin’s activity.
Upset stomach may be seen with artemisinin. Rare liver marker elevation and suppression of blood cells has been seen in humans. Here is a safety review in humans.
Do not give artemisinin with iron in the food or it can react with this iron and be consumed before it enters cancer cells. Meat, fortified foods, and supplements are some common iron sources in the diet.

Best to all,

Dr Dressler



 

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  1. Joanna W on June 12, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Dr. Dressler,

    I know you say above in the post and in the book that you do not recommend iron to be given with artemisinin.

    But in this post I found it says all dogs referenced in the following paragraph were given iron along with the artemisinin.

    “Early Success with Canine Osteosarcoma
    Treatment with artemisinin was started on a dog with a bone cancer so severe it could not walk across the room. Within five days of treatment the dog was able to walk normally, and X-rays confirmed the disappearance of the tumor. Several dogs with lymphosarcoma had also been treated with artemisinin with an immediate reduction in tumor size. In all these canine cases, an iron supplement was used.”

    http://www.mwt.net/~drbrewer/canart1.htm

    Do you know where that information on those cases mentioned can be found ?

    Thank you,
    Joanna

  2. Susan Kazara Harper on September 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Hi Tony,
    On page 171 of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Dr Dressler addresses using other powerful apoptogens as follows; “Using potent wormwood preparations such as artemisinin, Artemix or artemether at the same time as Apocaps, has not been evaluated for safety, so it is not recommended. If you choose to use wormwood preparations, use them in alternation with Apocaps, on a rotating schedule of five days on Apocaps (and stop artemisinin), five days on artemisinin (and stop Apocaps), five days on Apocaps (and stop artemisinin), and so on”. There is much more in the guide which I think may help you on this journey, but I hope this quoted section addresses your current question. All the best to you both.

  3. Tony on September 25, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Dr. Dressler
    Do you feel it is possible to take Apocaps along with Artemix? I’m not certain of the toxicity levels of either and would like to know you thoughts on the toxicity levels of Apocaps. I am currently giving my 8 yr old Rottie (osteosarcoma) 3 Apocaps – 3x per day. I am thinking of trying Artemix as well.

    Many thanks
    Tony

  4. Melinda on May 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Hi, Dr Dressler,
    I have written before with my dog, Paco a PWD with AGA with mets to lymph nodes. Just to refresh, they can’t do surgery because lymph nodes in tricky place… said was too invasive. I went to see Dr. Ettinger, but the price for the CT scan and then potential surgery was too much for me. Also, the Palladia would’ve been too expensive. I’m sorry to say… So we’ve been going to Holistic Vet who recommended 300 mg Arteminisin 2x’s a day. I’ve only been able to do the night dosage and the other morning he threw up and had diarrhea. I’m pretty sure from the Arte, since all else has been good. But with work and travel I cannot keep up the cancer diet and he won’t eat it anyway. So I’m mixing some Orijin 6 fish with cooked meat. I try to vary it but he’s picky and as you say in your book, better that he eats something than nothing. I can’t even get the fish oil in him without bad diarrhea. Anyway, back to the Arte… Dr. Singh says you don’t have to pulse it and it should be given on empty stomach. But Paco def needs something in his stomach or it gets upset. (I give pepcid ac in the am but prob should do a night dose too) Is there a snack that is good for this? I give a few spoonfuls of cottage cheese and then put the arte in philly cream cheese balls. That’s helpful… but any suggestions as to what I can give him to help with the upset stomach would be greatly appreciated. He’s been doing well on that dosage, though I notice some fast breathing that seems to lessen when we take a day or so break. I have Apopcaps but as I said, I haven’t done the 5 days on/off as you say because of what Dr. Singh recommends. Sooo confusing!!!
    He’s also on Carsinosin, Cancer formula by Animal Nutrition… Quercenol and K9 immunity plus. I just read that you don’t rec that one! oy.
    Well, appreciate your thoughts…
    Melinda

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on May 30, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Hi Melinda
      has your vet discussed an antiemetic like mirtazapine or metaclopramide with you?
      I’d be thinking along these lines right now
      Best
      Dr D

  5. Gertrud on October 24, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Hello,

    our female dog is about 10 year old with osteosarcoma. We want to put her on artemisinin. Can you tell us where we can order artemisinin – we live in Germany and cannot get artemisinin in our pharmacies.
    With artemisinin there some more other stuff (like fe, germanium …) have to be given.
    Who can give us informations about the medication?
    Thank you,
    Gertrud

  6. Nichole Brown on June 14, 2010 at 6:42 am

    My 5 year old 4 lb chihuahua Rocky has had a rough couple of weeks. He was brought in for an exam on the back of his mouth, in between the top and bottom jaw, because he had been experiencing pain and randomly yelping at times. When he was sedated and upon further examination she found a “mass”. She immediately did x-rays and a biopsy which came back a low grade liposarcoma. A week later she removed what she thought was the whole mass, larger than a grape and smaller than a golf ball. That’s still big for a dog his size. The results from the tumor came back the same, but with unclean margins so they are talking about consulting with a oncologist. I am afraid. I do not have the money for radiation or chemo. I also don’t want to put this little dog through such invasive treatments.. They said the positive part was that is hadn’t spread to his lymphatic system and that it wasn’t around his lungs. He seems to be doing good. Still eating and playing. I am heart broken. I love this little dog and have had him from a puppy. He has been such a friend. I just guess I am wanting to know if you have heard of this cancer being in the jaw area and get another opinion on what I should do.
    Thank you,
    Nichole

  7. Sandra on December 22, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    My dog, Nick is a 10 year old Akita with osteosarcoma. He had radiation treatment, ending 3 weeks ago. I want to put him on Artemisinin, but am getting conflicting info on how soon I can sart him. My vet says she’s found nothing about waiting after radiation and I can start him right away, various articles on the web say I need to wait 2 months. What is the earliest I can get him started?

    • Dr. Dressler on December 22, 2009 at 9:39 pm

      Dear Sandra,
      the objective data just isn’t there comparing radiation with art to radiation without art. We can only theorize until the studies are done. From a theoretical standpoint, the mechanism by which art works would complement radiation, not interfere with it….but nobody can say whether this holds in real life.
      Best,
      Dr D

  8. Doug on July 9, 2009 at 6:42 am

    My dog, a female 12 year old boxer (3/4) has hemangiosarcoma, she weighs about 60 lbs. I have seen different recommended doses for ART ranging from 100 to 600 MG, what do you recommend. Also, she is taking an iron supplement- how long should I wait after giving this to begin giving the treatment or is it just a concern while in the stomach/

  9. Judith Conigliaro on June 19, 2009 at 6:16 am

    My Westie Abby who has bladder cancer was on Artemisinin and at first, the tumor shrank. However, due to constant vomiting, we opted to forego this treatment. Is there something perhaps I could give Abby to contradict the stomach upset in order to continue with Artemisinin. Also, I do feed Abby chicken. Could this iron source have been the reason for the stomach upset? What type of food do you recommend when administering Artemisinin?

    I thank you for any response you can give.

    Judi Conigliaro
    gee_a_puppy@yahoo.com

    • Dr. Dressler on June 28, 2009 at 9:01 am

      Judith, consider cimetidine (tagamet) for the stomach upset. I doubt the iron in the chicken is causing the stomach upset, more likely the artemisinin or something else being given by mouth.
      I will discuss your question more fully in this weeks webinar:
      http://dogcancervet.com
      Thanks for the question!
      Dr D

      • Dr. Dressler on June 28, 2009 at 9:14 am

        FYI the webinar is recorded so you can listen later if you wish,
        D

  10. Dr. Dressler on May 7, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Thank you Dr. Lai!
    D

  11. Peggy Wrazen on April 13, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Hi Dr Dressler,
    Thank you so much for getting back to me. I am very happy with your book just get a little confused about some of the things.

    I printed the info you gave me and will be taking it to the vet.
    I have been keeping them informed of everything I am doing for Brandi. I told them if they are not giving me any options on treatments I will do what I have to to help her.

    They are not happy with the use of Arte and won’t even talk about the dosage, however they are willing to run periodic blood work and checks on her to check for any other problems associated with it or any other supplement I use. To my surprise, they did prescribe Doxycycline when I ask and agreed with it. With that, I guess they ARE willing to work along with,m e but not comfortable with prescribing some herbal treatments.
    They have even told me I am wasting my money using transfer factor and K9 immunity. I ask what they would give her for support and they said nothing.
    They also are not happy with the cancer diet for Brandi, they feel that with a dog her age(10) it would be too much for her kidneys. As of now Brandi has no problems associated with kidney problems so I am not sure if they are right.
    I should have ask you that question too. What would be the right diet for her given her age and lymphoma? Your cancer diet or the ND version?
    Thank you again,
    Peg & Brandi

    • Dr. Dressler on April 15, 2009 at 10:36 pm

      Peggy,
      high protein diet does not cause kidney disease. It should not be used though if the kidneys are diseased already though…
      Having said that, Greg Oglivie, arguably the most prominent veterinary oncologist in the country, designed ND. So in the conventional realm, he is a top dog. No offense to any other vet out there, but…you get the idea.
      Why don’t you use both of the diets…use some ND and some of the home diet??
      Can’t say what is better, no data, but this is a nice approach.
      I will address your question in more detail in the upcoming webinar:
      http://dogcancervet.com
      best,
      D

  12. Peggy Wrazen on April 7, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Hi Dr Dressler,
    My Boxer Brandi has been dianosed with Canine cutaneous epitheliotropic T cell lymphoma(mycosis fungoides)in her mouth. Our vet told me this cancer doesn’t respond to chemo. I know this well as they did try chemo on Brandi’s brother for the same disease in 2005. It was not in his mouth but all over his body and the chemo did not work.
    I was told Brandi’s is not as aggressive and to treat palliative, I take this as give up.
    At once I started to do reseach on alternative treatments.
    I ordered artemisinin and started her on 100mg 2x a day. Then I found your book, I ordered both the ebook and hard book.
    Since being off the Arte on the 5 on 5 off schedule I have been alternating it with parsley and I have also bought curcuin but not used it yet.
    I am going to be starting the arte again soon and would like to go with the 10mg/lb/day dose as per your book.

    My question is do I give it 2 times a day or only once. She is 64.4 pound and 10 years old
    So that would be 640mg of Artemin once or 320mg twice a day? I would have to measure out a half a capsule to get the 40mg as I only have 100mg capsules.
    Also would the Luteolin be a better rotation supplement, she really doesn’t like the parsley and has been not eating all her dinner since using it.
    also any ideas on what I could use on her mouth for the inflammation, it looks so sore.
    Thank you
    Peg & Brandi

    • Dr. Dressler on April 12, 2009 at 5:36 pm

      Peg and Brandi,
      print this abstract out and take it to your vet. See the blog posts on CLA too…
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1596872
      There is no evdience to say that the Arte is better or worse once or twice daily. Give the total amount in a 24 hour period, other than that it is your call. You can round up on the Art dose to fit the capsule sizel….whatever is easiest. Please be in touch with your vet about everything you are doing!
      Good luck!!
      D

  13. Milos_Mom on January 28, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Dear Dr. Dressler,
    Thank you for this site; it is comforting to me at this difficult time.

    I am torn whether to ampute my dog’s left, front arm and shoulder now or proceed with aggressive Radiation therapy first.

    He has aggressive Liposarcoma, low grade, low stage (I asked and these were the terms given). I’ve had to be assertive in inquiry and advocacy to get him into the veterinary oncologists by referral within 2 weeks of the tumor appearing. Thanks to your blog and other web research, I managed it and am grateful I had the courage and fortitude to push through thus far. His CT shows no metastasis beyond his limb at this point.

    The tumor arrived Jan. 1, 2009. Today, Jan. 28, 2009 the veterinary surgical oncologist went back in and removed all she could that remained of the cancer. She said without amputation she could not get it all, however. The pathologist from his first biopsy (which went slightly awry because the tumor ‘popped’ out during the procedure unexpectedly, yielding more than the intended circumference of removal than anticipated) indicated unclear margins).

    We now await the pathologist’s report from this second surgery, although with the surgeon’s assessment that more cells remain behind without amputation.

    I’ve read and carefully considered your posts re. Radiation Therapy and how serious it is and done the life expectancy estimation for my dear dog Milo. He is 10 now, a small terrier, min-pin mix, with an optimistic life expectancy of 15 years had cancer not visited.

    Per your recommendation, I am considering the alternatives and options available to me. Both the veterinary surgeon and veterinary oncologist recommend the aggressive, 19 consecutive day Radiation therapy to target the remaining cancer cells. This seems very aggressive to me and I worry for the aftermath of toxic effects and latent consequences of the Radiation for the remainder of his next 5 years should we succeed in a cure.

    Per your formula, he is NOT at the end of his life expectancy yet; he has at least 5 years left God willing.

    My question is if I should be proactive and choose amputation with radiation (although the surgeon said that with amputation no radiation is necessary although what I’ve read says radiation is still advised…??? Is it?) or…

    If I should subject him to this massive amount of radiation for 19 consecutive days and amputate only if/when another tumor/bump/lump appears later on?

    Is there an option for amputation now with a lower dosage of radiation?

    Is the risk of toxic, latent, residual effects from intense, heavy, radiation over the next 5 years a better bet than amputation now, while the cancer is still contained within the limb, plus a lesser amount of radiation as a ‘just in case’ treatment???

    I want him to feel the least amount of ‘sick’ and ‘scared’ for the remainder of his days with the best quality of life and be cancer-free or at least cancer-clueless if possible!

    He’s one of those dogs that just WANTS to run and fetch the tennis ball and play tuggie and look at the window and meet other dogs! Milo’s got that joie de vive in buckets, Dr. Dressler! He fits into that ‘type’ of dog you described when trying to make this choice in your post.

    So I know he’d bounce back from amputation sooner than later! He’s a super trooper!

    And I realize that cancer may reappear somewhere else later, maybe sooner, and then he’d still be one leg shy of a set.

    Like the celebrity Christina Applegate who opted for a double masectomy after being tested and due to her familial breast cancer history of onset, I’m willing to be proactive and opt for amputation now because:

    1) Both the original pathologist and today’s vet. onco. surgeon admit the cancer cells are still there in the back of his upper arm and due to the location, clean margins of removal cannot be obtained without amputation.

    But I don’t want to take his leg off unnecessarily or prematurely either if radiation therapy could work withOUT resulting in likely toxic effects within the next 5 years of his expected life span.

    I can’t seem to get a feel for the REAL fall out effect of such aggressive and intense radiation therapy on a little 18 lb. love of my heart dog! ‘They tolerate it so well’ is all I could get from the veterinary oncologist (probably because I wasn’t asking the correct questions I know!) But I’ve bought your book and will work to improve my game. 😉

    Radiation is gross. We all know it. I don’t want to radiate my dog if it means that 2 of his 5 years will be spent dealing with likely toxic effects of it in the form of new tumors FROM the radiation and plethora other fallout.

    If amputation means ‘a stitch in time…’ or ‘a bird in hand…’ plus either no radiation or lesser radiation will more likely yield Milo 5 FUN, healthy, happy years with less radioactive fallout on his body, then I’m willing to do that.

    What do you think? HELP! I’m on information overload.

    I just bought your book and will begin the ‘coping’ exercises asap.

    Milo’s spending the night at the oncology center tonight, my sweet little man. My love. My heart. I don’t know what to do!

    Thank you and God Bless You, Dr. Dressler,

    Please let me know…

    Sincerely,

    Lorene Moore aka Milo’s Mom

    • Dr. Dressler on January 30, 2009 at 7:04 pm

      Lorene,
      this is a yucky one. However, I believe I will help you by acknowledging that you have already answered your own question. I always say this, but I cannot give advice on individual dogs in this blog. Go with your gut on this one. You know what I am saying. My opinion only.
      Also, get the next book when it comes. The supplement sections on curcumin/luteolin may help your little Milo.
      Give Milo a hug for me,
      D