Brain cancer, both in pets and in people, is very difficult to deal with.
First, we have something called the blood-brain barrier. This in not really a wall per se, but is rather just a feature of the tiny blood vessels in the brain. These little capillaries have tight junctions that don’t let things pass from the blood into the brain. These form a “barrier” between the blood and the brain.
The blood brain barrier makes it difficult to get treatments into the brain. We can take pills or give injections, but this only gets the treatment into the blood stream. Next, it has to get from the blood into the brain, and since the capillaries in the brain don’t let many treatments pass their walls, it is tough accessing brain cancers.
Another issue that makes tumors in the brain tough to deal with is the difficulty with surgery. Since these tumors have healthy brain around them, and our dogs need this healthy tissue, it is difficult in many cases to remove the tumor without hurting the healthy brain.
On top of this, there are very few veterinary surgeons who have had the opportunity to train to competency in this area.
I previously posted on a homeopathic treatment (ruta-6 with Ca3(PO4)2 ), that has achieved remission in 7 out of 8 glioma patients.
Another item of interest is called the Cyberknife. I was in Yonkers a few weeks ago and visited the Animal Specialty Center. This is an excellent facility that houses the only Cyberknife for pets in the country.
The Cyberknife is a device that is particularly suited for treatment of tumors in the brain. The apparatus emits radiation very rapidly, from a variety of directions in succession, and targets the tumor. This allows the surrounding healthy brain tissue to receive minimal radiation, while the tumor gets a large dose.
(While there I was able to catch up with Dr. Sue Ettinger, a coauthor of the upcoming second edition of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, which was great!)
Two new possible treatments have caught my attention recently. First, is a device that is still awaiting FDA approval, but looks promising and could likely be applied to veterinary medicine. This one creates an electric field across the tumor site or areas (aptly called a Tumor Treatment Field, or TTF).
The device, made by NovoCure, is powered by a pack that weight about 7 or 8 pounds, and is attached to a headpiece which is worn continually during the treatment. In the early trials, it seems that the survival of the patients treated with this approach roughly doubled.
Finally, at UC Davis, an experimental new treatment for brain tumors involves implantation of a port which allows chemotherapy to be injected directly into the brain, by passing the blood-brain barrier.
Each of these represents ideas that have the potential to give us an edge on dog cancer. If you would like more information on current tools you can use right now to help you and your loved dog, check out The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.