In September 2007, after losing two dogs in a short time, Diane and Jack decided they were ready to bring a new furry friend into their family. They visited a local shelter and immediately noticed a shy little guy hiding in the corner. They felt sorry for him and learned that the pup, named Benson, was five-years-old, and would likely be euthanized soon because he had a birth defect in one of his legs and no one had come along to adopt him.
That’s when Diane and Jack decided to bring him home. “He’s the best dog we’ve ever had,” said Jack.
Benson adjusted to his new family instantly. Within an hour, he learned to use the doggie door and made himself comfortable in his new home.
“He’s a lover, always happy,” said Jack. “We quickly learned that he loves to have his back scratched.”
In July 2014, the couple noticed that Benson was drinking lots of water and losing weight. After a visit to the veterinarian, Benson was diagnosed with diabetes. The family spent the next few months working to find the right insulin level to manage Benson’s diabetes. Soon after, Benson developed cataracts associated with his diabetes, and was totally blind within a few days. Diane and Jack brought Benson to CSU’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital for cataract surgery in October 2014.
Following successful surgery, Benson returned to his happy life. However, during a routine physical examination at a follow-up appointment with his ophthalmologist in March 2015, Benson’s doctor noticed enlarged lymph nodes. Lab results from aspiration came back consistent with lymphoma. At that point, doctors referred the family to the Flint Animal Cancer Center for a consultation.
A few days later, Diane and Jack brought Benson to the FACC for further evaluation and to learn about treatment options. After examination and further testing, Benson was diagnosed with stage 2a multicentric B cell lymphoma. Benson’s care team provided multiple treatment possibilities, including palliative care using prednisone, 15 rounds of doxorubicin, or the CHOP protocol. Ultimately, Diane and Jack opted for the CHOP protocol, which is the standard of care for canine lymphoma patients and has a 90%+ response rate. The median survival rate for patients who receive the CHOP protocol is 9-12 months.
“The doctors at the Flint Animal Cancer Center were great, they shared all of Benson’s options with us, explained the risks and the potential outcomes,” said Jack. “We really appreciated having all of that information.”
Unfortunately, after a month of treatment, Benson’s cancer was not responding to the CHOP protocol so his doctors recommended a change.
“They told us about a new clinical trial for dogs with lymphoma,” said Jack. “After they explained the protocol, it was a no brainer.”
The family enrolled Benson in the Tanovea clinical trial in April 2015. The trial was designed to test the effectiveness of a chemotherapy drug, called Tanovea, in canine patients with lymphoma, a very common canine cancer. Just one week after his first treatment, Benson showed a strong response to therapy. After his second treatment, Benson was in complete remission! Following the clinical trial protocol, Benson received three more doses of Tanovea over the next several weeks. As a frequent visitor to the FACC, Benson developed a special relationship with the clinical trials team.
“Benson is a whole lot of personality in a 20 pound package,” said Kara Hall, FACC clinical trials nurse. “He comes in the hospital barking, letting everyone know that he has arrived! Once we take him in the back, he is the sweetest, happiest patient you could ever ask for!”
“We love Kara Hall,” said Jack. “She’s been a dream to work with.”
After completing chemotherapy in July 2015, Benson and family returned for monthly rechecks for the next year. Each time, they received the same great news – Benson was in complete remission! After a cancer-free year, rechecks moved to every other month. Today, Benson remains in remission.
“Benson is a huge trials success story – in remission for over 2 ½ years,” said Hall.
“We are so grateful for the care Benson has received and the quality time we’ve had with him after his diagnosis,” said Jack. “Our entire experience has been great, everyone we’ve met along the way have been wonderful. We’d recommend the CSU hospital to anyone.”
NOTE: Benson’s participation in the Tanovea clinical trial helped the FACC prove the effectiveness of Tanovea in treating canine lymphoma. In January 2017, Tanovea was the first drug to receive preliminary FDA approval for canine lymphoma and is now available across the country.
Your gift to the Flint Animal Cancer Center will support our mission to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer in beloved pets like Benson. Please join our team of hope. Together we can make a difference; together we can work toward a cure.