PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As the country mourns the death of Sen. John McCain from brain cancer, there is hope that patients in the future will benefit from new research. McCain had glioblastoma, which is the deadliest kind of brain cancer. It also killed Ted Kennedy and Beau Biden.
An experimental drug being tested on dogs could hold promise for people.
When Emily, a 10-year-old Portuguese water dog, was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer earlier this year, her owner, Laura Kamienski, was devastated.
“I sobbed. I sat in the middle of the exam room and sobbed,” she said.
Emily has glioblastoma and was given just three months to live. It’s a tough cancer to treat and options are limited, so Kamienski enrolled her dog in a new clinical trial at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.
“That gave me hope. I said, ‘I’ll do anything,'” said Kamienski.
A drug is injected directly into the tumor, getting right to the cancer while leaving healthy brain tissue undamaged.
“We watch the entire treatment on MRI, so we can watch the drug cover the tumor, and so we know we’ve achieved the treatment goals of actually targeting all the cancer cells,” said Dr. John Rossmeisl, professor of neurology and neurosurgery.
Researchers say results are so promising that the National Institutes of Health is now helping fund the trial in hopes it can lead to a breakthrough for people.
It’s been six weeks since Emily’s first treatment.
“She hasn’t had a seizure since last time,” explained Kamienski. “She’s herself.”
MRI’s show her tumor is shrinking.
“The black spot means the tumor is dying. That’s what we want to see,” said Rossmeisl. “The only way this could have been better if it was totally gone. This is really good news.”
And maybe, some day, helping people trying to beat this cancer, too.
“It’s not a cure. I knew that going in,” said Kamienski. “This is the best hope, to give her more time.”
In partnership with Wake Forest University, Virginia-Maryland Veterinary College is still accepting dogs with glioblastoma into the clinical trial.