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Breakthrough In Pain Treatment For Dogs With Osteosarcoma

Between 6000-8000 dogs in the United States receive treatment for Osteosarcoma each year.  Typically a disease of large breed dogs, Osteosarcoma can affect breeds of all sizes.  As the disease progresses, it reshapes normal healthy bone tissue and changes it to tumorous bone.  In dogs as in people, this remodeling process becomes increasingly more painful as the disease progresses, impacting activity levels and quality of life.
Dr. Vladimir Osipov

The Dorothy Cimino Brown, DVM and Kimberly Agnello DVM University of Pennsylvania Study

Seventy dogs suffering from Osteosarcoma participated in this study.  A variety of breeds were represented including Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrieves and various mixed breeds. The average size of the dogs in the study was 90 pounds, and the average age fell between 8 and 9 years.  The study was conducted by splitting the group in half and treating both groups with standard care, while the second group also received a single injection of a Neurotoxin, SP-sap (P-saporin), near the tumor site.

A similar neurotoxin many of us are familiar with is Botox, the anti-wrinkle injection. Botox acts to block signals from the nerves to the muscles, so that the muscles can no longer contract.  When specific muscles cannot contract, the wrinkle appears to soften.

Similarly, SP-sap works by attaching itself to the pain sensing nerves. Once attached, the sap portion kills off the nerve.  The theory is, no more pain sensing nerve then no more pain.

Study Results

Six weeks into the study, 74% of the dogs in the control group (those receiving only standard care) had significant increases in pain levels, and needed to be removed from the control group or "unblinded" in order to have their pain management adjusted.  

In contrast with the control group, only 24% of the dogs in the SP-sap group needed to be "unblinded" for adjustments to their pain management.

Additionally, the dogs in the control group, who were receiving only standard care, experienced a 6% increase in pain severity testing.  The dogs who received the single SP-sap injection experienced no increase in pain severity.

And more encouraging, the dogs in the control group experienced and 8% decreases in how pain interferes with their daily activities, while the SP-sap group had a 5% improvement in their daily activities.

The Implications

As Osteosarcoma afflicts both dogs and people in the same manner, this study is potentially good news for both humans and canines.  Relieving pain is critical to improving the patient's quality of life, response to treatment and the overall patient outcome.  The positive results from this study are likely to spark further investigation into SP-sap and other neurotoxins for pain management of Osteosarcoma as well as other diseases with chronic pain symptoms as well.

To learn more about this study visit: American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) (2013, October 23). Chronic pain in dogs with bone cancer relieved with new treatment.

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