Katie was a CSU student when she adopted eight-week-old Bo, a loveable black lab. She picked him out of the litter because he was the biggest, a “bit chunky” even. From the start, he was calm and loving. When Katie wasn’t in class, she and Bo loved to spend time on the Poudre River. All Katie had to say was “Go Fishing?” and Bo would head to the door.
After college, Katie and Bo left Fort Collins. Two more pups joined their family, a yellow lab and a chocolate lab and they quickly became known as the three amigos. Katie, Bo and his two brothers spent a lot of time outdoors, swimming and playing fetch. In 2012, when Bo was 7, Katie noticed a lump on Bo’s right flank that she kept her eye on. Suddenly, it grew very quickly and in July 2013 she brought him to her veterinarian where he was diagnosed with a Mast cell tumor (MCT). Bo’s veterinarian referred Katie and Bo to the Flint Animal Cancer Center (FACC). After that initial diagnosis, Katie felt pretty hopeless, but she reached out to the FACC and made an appointment to get some more information.
At the FACC, Katie met surgeon, Dr. Deanna Worley, who gave Katie some good news – the tumor had not metastasized and Dr. Worley was confident she could remove the entire tumor – and she did. However, Mast cell tumors are sometimes unpredictable and in some patients new mast cell tumors grow in a new or the same location in spite of a full excision of the original tumor. About six months later, two new tumors appeared and those were surgically removed as well. His third surgery took place two months later to remove yet another new mast cell tumor. While future surgeries remained an option if more tumors appeared, Bo’s clinical team and Katie decided to try a different approach.
In May 2014, when new tumors cropped up for the 4th time on Bo, he entered a clinical trial for Palladia designed for dogs with recurrent mast cell tumor disease. Palladia is the first FDA-approved drug for canine cancer and is licensed to treat canine mast cell tumor, thanks in part to the clinical trials conducted at the CSU Flint Animal Cancer Center. Palladia, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, has both antitumor and antiangiogenic properties, meaning they work both against the tumor itself and the blood vessels that supply it. The hope for Bo was to combat the disease systemically to not only treat the new tumors but to prevent future ones.
“We decided to enter the clinical trial for a couple of reasons,” explained Katie. “We didn’t want Bo to go through another surgery, and we knew that they were seeing promising results with Palladia used to treat MCT so we thought this was a good option. It also felt good knowing that we were helping not only our pup, but ultimately other dogs with this common type of cancer.”
After some adjustments to the initial dosage of Palladia because of some stomach upset and lethargy, Bo handled treatment well and went into remission in November 2014. He continued to receive chemotherapy treatments through October 2015. Following his final chemotherapy, he returned for rechecks every three months and was feeling great and doing well. He had nearly two years of cancer free time!
At his April 2017 recheck, Katie told doctors that they had recently discovered two new masses. Further testing revealed that Bo had another Mast cell tumor on his right flank and inguinal region with metastasis to his inguinal lymph node. Bo’s care team suggested palliative radiation to decrease the symptoms associated with the tumors (itching, pain and size of the masses) combined with Palladia and Katie agreed to move forward. In May, Bo completed radiation therapy, which worked to shrink his tumor significantly. Today, he’s continuing to receive Palladia and returns for rechecks every six weeks. At the age of 12, arthritis is slowing him down a little these days, but he’s still loving life as one of the three amigos.
Bo’s recurring cancer has brought him to the FACC many, many times over the last five years. Katie and Bo have met just about every staff member from surgical and medical oncology to radiation and clinical trials. Katie has really been touched by the extraordinary care Bo has received.
“We never had a single experience that was less than fabulous. Everyone is so kind and they take such good care of Bo. And they’re always available to answer my million questions, when I’m in a panic. I can’t say enough about the team at FACC.”
Through everything, Bo developed a special bond with the clinical trials team, including trials nurse, Kara Hall.
“I love this sweet boy,” shared Kara. “Bo is a true cancer survivor! He was on a clinical trial, had chemo through the regular oncology service, and went on to receive radiation! Through it all, Bo’s tail has never stopped wagging! ”
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 Bo. Please join our team of hope. Together we can make a difference; together we can work toward a cure.