By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Dogs help people in a hundred different ways, and scientists now believe they may be the key to finding a cure for a deadly form of brain cancer. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more.
An experimental treatment for brain cancer was so successful in saving dogs, it’s now being tested on humans.
Angie Heille’s dog, Jack, has recovered from a brain tumor, after getting an experimental therapy.
“We’re excited it could prolong his life,” said Angie.
“We’re using a combination of gene therapy and vaccine. So vaccines have been tried and gene therapy has been tried. So the combination is new,” said Dr. John Ohlfest, a researcher.
The vaccine is made of cancer cells that stimulate the immune system to fight the tumor, and perhaps even stop it from recurring.
The therapy was so successful, an astounding 95 percent of the dogs treated got better. And because dogs and humans have similar genetics the treatment was fast tracked for humans.
“The beauty of this is that we’re benefiting the dogs, because these are patients with a problem that we’re treating and the results will now go to help benefit people as well,” said Dr. Liz Pluhar, a researcher.
John Huls is one of the first humans now receiving the experimental cancer vaccine.
“This is nothing short of an extension of life,” said John. It’s a last ditch effort for John. Even after two surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, his tumor kept growing back. But John never imagined he’d share this journey with a dog.
“I have never been a huge dog owner or supporter, but we bonded immediately. Because I recognized right away how that dog contributed to the success of this program,” said John.
A breakthrough for man and man’s best friend. Jack is now healthy and cancer free.
“We feel like we’re getting closer to something that’s gonna be a breakthrough,” said Dr. Ohlfest.
That brain cancer vaccine was first tested at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital.
In our area, Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center is testing a different brain cancer vaccine.