PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) Penn Vet is making some amazing strides in fighting a devastating cancer in dogs. It's called Hemangiosarcoma and it strikes like a lightning rod.
In fact, our Dawn Timmeney lost her Golden Retriever, Bhodi, to the nasty cancer. She shows us what Penn Vet researchers are doing to turn dog owners' despair to hope.
Bhodi was an 8-year-old healthy, happy Golden Retriever. One minute he was playing in the yard and the next minute he was being rushed to an emergency veterinarian. The diagnosis was something Dawn never even heard of: Hemangiosarcoma. It’s a highly aggressive and invasive cancer of the blood vessels that most often strikes the spleen.
"A lot of times, by the time we diagnosis it, it spread to other organs,” said Penn Vet Researcher Dr. Dorothy Cimino Brown.
Bhodi was treated at Metropolitan Veterinary Associates in Trooper, Pennsylvania, where the oncologist gave Dawn and her family the poor prognosis for their beloved pet. The doctors said tumors were on his spleen, heart, lungs and the cancer was advanced. He might have a few days, maybe a month to live. Dawn and her family could do chemotherapy, but it would not buy him much time. Their one hope was a Chinese compound derived from mushrooms called "I'm Yuntiy."
"The PSP that's in "I'm Yunity" comes from a very specific Yunzee mushroom. The active compound within this mushroom is the Polysaccharopeptide,” said Dr. Brown. "It's been used in Chinese Medicine for over 2000 years and the predominant interest is in boosting the immune function."
Penn Vet researchers found in a study they published in 2012 that this particular compound increased longevity in dogs with Hemangiosarcoma and it appeared to have a tumor fighting effect.
"We were like, 'Wow, this is really promising.' It made us want to go ahead and do the next study which we are doing now,” Dr. Brown explained.
The first study was small with 15 dogs but some lived over a year. The second study is more definitive and involves 100 dogs. Two dogs in the study are a Golden Retriever named Moose and a 10-year-old Frenchie named Milo.
"When you are dealing with cancer, you are always looking for; is there any indication the cancer has spread beyond where it was the last time you looked at the dog,” said Dr. Brown
Milo was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma right after Christmas last year. He had his spleen removed and joined the study in January of 2015.
"When we found out just kind of on a fluke that Penn had this opportunity for him to be part of this trial and this new medication. I mean we just jumped at the chance because we wanted to make sure we had as much time with him as much good time with him as we could,” said Milo’s owner Bonnie Levitt.
Half the dogs in the study are on I'm Yunity, a quarter are on I'm Yunity and chemotherapy and another quarter are getting chemo and a placebo. Milo is getting chemo but Bonnie doesn't know if the 3 capsules she gives him a day are I'm Yunity or a placebo, but thankfully, he is much improved and living life.
"The fact that he is now kind of past the typical window of what dogs with Hemangiosarcoma would see "it's been a winning lottery ticket for us. We feel very fortunate,” Bonnie explained.
Moose is also seeing amazing results, he had his spleen removed in February and has been taking only I'm Yunity for 8-months.
"For dogs with Hemangiosarcoma one of the major problems is they can have bleeding from their tumors, either from the main tumor in their spleen or if they have spread of tumor, these small tumors can bleed as well,” Dr. Brown explained.
That is what ultimately causes the dogs to succumb to the cancer. Dawn’s Golden Bhodi lived for 38 days after the dreaded diagnosis taking 9 I’m Yunity capsules a day They considered those 38 days a gift.
Penn Vet is halfway into its second study on I'm Yunity. Researchers estimate it will probably run another two years since its team of vets is following all the dogs until the end of their life. They say there's been no evidence of any adverse effects of I’m Yunity. The hope is being it will offer a significant and successful alterative to chemo, which doesn't greatly increase survival. The makers of I"m Yunity may also pursue large scale clinical trials in humans.
Interested dog owners can contact researchers at VCIC@VET.UPENN.EDU or call 215-573-0302.