Canine Lymphoma

Yogi Beats Canine Lymphoma with the Help of a One Cure Clinical Trial

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The runt of his litter, Yogi, has never let his size determine his destiny.

“He doesn’t know he’s only 12 pounds,” said Yogi’s owner, Sharon. “There isn’t a dog or a person he won’t talk to; he’s just so friendly.”

Yogi, the happiest Yorkshire terrier you’ll ever meet, joined his forever family, including mom, Sharon, and dad, Pat, 11 years ago. Yogi and Sharon share a special bond; he’s the first to greet her when she walks through the door, and every evening, he settles in with Sharon for cuddle time.

“Yogi’s been with me through thick and thin,” said Sharon. “He gives me unconditional love whether I’ve had a good day or a bad day; I couldn’t be without him.”

In March 2018, the unthinkable happened when Sharon brought Yogi to his primary veterinarian, concerned about an unusual cough. At that visit, she learned Yogi had cancer. Yogi was diagnosed with multicentric B cell lymphoma. Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in dogs, accounting for up to 24 percent of all new canine cancers. 

Willing to do whatever it would take to help Yogi, Sharon called to schedule an appointment at Colorado State University’s Flint Animal Cancer Center.

“Bringing Yogi to CSU was a no-brainer,” said Sharon. “I believe a university is the best place to go with health concerns, person or pet.”

Sharon admitted she was terrified of what they might find out at Yogi’s first appointment at the FACC but shared her relief from the minute she walked in the door.

“The volunteer who greeted us and the welcome we received at the front desk made me feel better right away.”

Canine Lymphoma – Standard Treatment or Clinical Trial?

During their first visit, Yogi, Sharon, and Pat met with Dr. Kristen Weishaar, director of clinical trials at the FACC, to talk about treatment options. One possibility involved a clinical trial using the CHOP protocol. CHOP is one of the most effective therapies for inducing remission in both pets and people with lymphoma. The treatment involves a combination of the chemotherapy drugs cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and doxorubicin as well as the steroid prednisone and is delivered over 15 weeks.

The clinical trial, called the CHOP Dose Escalation Study, uses the CHOP protocol but seeks to determine if patients can achieve longer remission with increased dosing. The dosing is personalized to the patient’s response.

After learning that Yogi qualified for the study, Sharon and Pat were quick to enroll him. He received his first dose of vincristine on April 5, 2018. That’s also the day he met his new best friend, clinical trials technician, Kara Hall.

“Yogi is a bundle of love and energy all wrapped up in a 12-pound package, bursting with excitement,” said Hall.

The family traveled to Fort Collins from Boulder every week for several months so that Yogi could receive treatment.

“From the first time I met Sharon and Yogi, I could tell how special Yogi was and how committed she was to doing everything she could to help him,” said Weishaar.

Yogi achieved remission in late May 2018 but continued the weekly CHOP chemotherapy protocol through August of that year.

Celebrating Remission

“All in all, he handled chemotherapy like a champ,” said Sharon. “There were a few weeks when his white blood cell count was too low for chemotherapy, and that made me nervous, but now here we are; he’s been in remission for 16 months.”

Yogi returns to the FACC once per month for rechecks, and despite his dislike of car rides, he is always excited when he realizes he’s at the hospital. He also returned to deliver Christmas presents to his friends at the FACC last year and celebrated his birthday with them in February.

“We are so happy that Yogi has done this well for so long, and we are very grateful that Sharon allowed Yogi to participate in our clinical trial. We wouldn’t be able to do the work that we do without people like Sharon and dogs like Yogi,” said Weishaar.

When reflecting on the last 18 months, Sharon feels grateful. 

“Anyone who has the chance to bring their pet here is lucky. Despite the circumstances, this has been a wonderful experience. The staff is kind and caring, and they take the time to explain treatment plans clearly and provide detailed updates. They are never in a rush and take the time to answer all questions. People should have the kind of care you get here. I couldn’t ask for more.”