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VTH Clinical Studies Explore Novel Treatments for Canine Osteosarcoma

Clinical investigations underway at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are evaluating novel treatment approaches for their effectiveness in treating canine osteosarcoma, a type of aggressive bone cancer that is often devastating for dogs.

Canine osteosarcoma (OSA), which accounts for 80% of all malignant bone tumors in dogs, commonly affects the limbs of older dogs. The tumor develops deep within the bones and then grows rapidly to destroy the bones from the inside. In addition to causing significant bone damage and associated discomfort, OSA readily spreads (metastasizes) to other places in the body. Standard treatment involves surgery—usually limb amputation—followed by chemotherapy to delay or prevent metastasis.

Symptoms of the disease are intermittent progressive lameness, firm bony swelling along the end of the bone, and pain in the affected limb. Some of the most commonly affected breeds are Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Irish Wolfhounds, and Golden Retrievers.

 “While the exact cause of osteosarcoma is not known, heritable and other genetic factors appear to play a role,” says Dr. Laurel Williams, an oncologist with NC State’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

In an effort to improve outcome for dogs diagnosed with OSA, clinical studies evaluating new treatment approaches are underway at the NC State VTH under the direction of Dr. Williams.

The first study is evaluating dogs with OSA treated with amputation, who will then receive a long-term oral medication called Palladia™. Palladia has the ability to disrupt the blood supply to cancer cells and may therefore delay or prevent metastasis, a process that is crucially dependent on an intact blood supply.

Eligible dogs recruited for this study must have a diagnosis of OSA, undergo amputation, and begin Palladia™ five days following surgery. Patients will return to the VTH each month for a physical exam and blood work; thoracic radiographs will be performed at two-month intervals. The study covers the costs of Palladia™ and blood tests performed to monitor the drug. The client will pay for initial evaluation, amputation, and recheck visits with thoracic radiographs.

Photo of Dr. Laurel Williams

The second study is in collaboration with investigators at Ohio State University. This investigation is evaluating dogs with OSA treated with amputation, standard carboplatin chemotherapy, and one of two long-term oral treatment protocols aimed at disrupting the blood supply to cancer cells. Carboplatin drug is provided at no cost and clients also receive a stipend of $50 to 75 for associated lab tests during each study visit.

Owners or veterinarians interested in either one of the two studies can call study coordinator Julie Nettifee Osborne at (919) 513-6812 or email


Dr. Laurel Williams


Posted February 22, 2011