Effective Canine Lymphoma Treatments That Don't Involve Chemotherapy

November 7, 2022
A french dog waiting to be examined in an exam room

While chemotherapy is the form of treatment that is recommended most to pet parents, there are other options for canine lymphoma patients.

Half-Body Radiation

Radiation treatment is a common treatment option for humans but is only now becoming available for our furry friends due to the costs of equipment. Radiotherapy is increasingly being used for many kinds of canine cancer. However, it is typically used as a treatment for localized cancers. In localized cancers, the effect of the disease is found in a tumor that either couldn’t be removed surgically, or surgery didn’t remove all of the threatening cancer cells in the area. Radiation works as a cancer treatment by damaging the gene in the cancer cells that cause them to rapidly divide and multiply. When treating a localized cancer, radiation treatment is simply working to kill off the last of those cancer cells. 

When treating a systemic cancer, like lymphoma, the treatment moves from a localized area to the full body. However, because radiation therapy can be extremely taxing on the body, the patient’s treatment will be split into two separate treatments—one for each half of the body—with a recovery period in between the two. Typically, one half will start from the tip of the patient’s nose and go until the center point of their torso, so that then the other half covers from the center line until the tip of their tail. 

While half-body radiation is a valuable treatment method for dogs with lymphoma, it is not often pushed as a primary treatment. This is because radiation is a higher level of toxicity and stress on your pet than chemotherapy would be, so this treatment is often added as a secondary treatment—on top of chemotherapy—to give a stronger push towards remission. Be sure to talk to your vet about if this is the best treatment option for your pet’s case.1

Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone marrow is a very important part of the body’s immune system, as new cells are created in the bone marrow that help to either heal or fight infections and illnesses.  

Bone marrow transplants have been a staple in human lymphoma treatments for a while, but prior to those treatments being made possible for human patients, the developmental process of them was studied on canine lymphoma patients because the cancer behaves very similarly in both species. 

However, despite this history and the reliability of bone marrow transplants in human patients, the practice was not commonplace in canine patients. It has only become so in recent years after more studies were done and findings proved its feasibility in stopping the progression of lymphoma.

Bone marrow transplant treatment cannot be done on its own and is typically combined with a radiation therapy treatment. The treatment consists of gathering healthy stem cells from the dog’s bloodstream before radiation treatment is performed. The radiation works to rapidly kill the cancer cells that are active in the body, and once that part of the treatment is completed the stem cells are returned to the dog where they can begin growing and developing into healthy white blood cells. The increase in white blood cell count is an initial sign that the procedure was successful. The interesting part about bone marrow transplant procedures in dogs is that it is possible to use a dog’s own marrow or blood to perform the treatment.2,3 

While a bone marrow transplant procedure is a painless process for most dogs that receive the treatment, it is not a great fit for all patients. Higher staged patients, patients in post-chemotherapy relapse, and patients who have more going on than just lymphoma are not good candidates for this treatment.2,3

Antibody Therapy

Antibody therapy is a treatment method that directly reflects the body’s natural way of healing itself. Think of the basics of how the immune system works: there are some cells that defend against invasive materials like bacteria and infections, and some that create cells that do the heavy lifting. The latter of these are called B-cells, and when they come into contact with antigens in the body (antigens being the foreign substances that aren’t found naturally in the body) the B-cells will become ‘activated’ and send signals to plasma cells. The plasma cells, in turn, will create antibodies to fight off the foreign substance. Antibody therapy provides man-made antibodies to help your dog fight off the damaging lymphoma cells in their system.

Currently, antibody therapy is performed using a mAb antibody. Originally, this antibody was created by fusing the B-cells from an animal that had been immunized with the target protein, and a myeloma cell line that was selected for the specific traits that led it to be a good choice for cancer treatment. This hybrid cell type is just the beginning for antibody therapy; due to the development of the technology to create the mAb antibody, there have been advancements allowing scientists and doctors to develop other antibodies that are stronger defenses against different variations of lymphoma.4,5,6

There is a lot of complex science behind the reasons that antibody therapy works, and it is in a unique position right now where the research that has been conducted leans greatly in the positive direction but there has not been enough available to come to a conclusive, well-rounded, final decision on whether it is the best treatment option for canine lymphoma. It is worth discussing with your vet if your dog may be a good candidate for this method of treatment.

Chemotherapy doesn’t have to be scary

In most cases, chemotherapy will be the most accessible and reliable treatment for your dog diagnosed with lymphoma. And while the concept of chemotherapy sounds very stressful and confusing, it doesn’t have to be.

ImpriMed is a resource that can help your vet to discover the best chemotherapy plan that will work for your dog. Not something that has worked in the past on a similar case, but treatment plans tested on your dog’s live cancer cells to find the best possible combinations of chemotherapy drugs to bring your dog into remission as quickly as possible. 

Using advanced technology, state-of-the-art labs, a large–and growing—database of information on canine lymphoma, and artificial intelligence, ImpriMed will take your dog’s live cancer cells and create a Personalized Prediction Profile for your pet and your pet alone. This Profile will help your vet choose the most effective treatment plan to get your dog into remission as quickly and easily as possible, and to keep them in that remission for as long as they can. 

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