Beloved police dog steps up for final service: Clinical trials
An Ottawa County, Ohio, K-9 patrol dog named Nero made national news last month — and he is still drawing huge support from Facebook users and the local community — after participating in cancer clinical trials at Ohio State University aimed at countering his B-cell lymphoma.
You might call it his final service to the people he loves.
Studies at the college’s Veterinary Medical Center treated Nero, a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois, with two different drugs in an effort to improve his prognosis of a one- to two-year life expectancy. He ended the free program April 25 when deemed non-responsive to the treatments, though his cancer hasn’t gotten worse.
“This obviously isn't good news, but Nero's story is far from over and we will continue to fight,” reads a Facebook page dedicated to the beloved dog. “We greatly appreciate the prayers and well wishes, and we hope you all continue to follow Nero's journey.”
Now Nero has been switched to an intravenous chemotherapy known as the CHOP protocol. It includes a mix of Cytoxan®, Adriamycin®, Oncovin® and Prednisone. A May 11 update notes the cancer in his lymph nodes was stable but not receding after three chemotherapy treatments, so his dosage was set to be increased.
“We have the same hopes with chemotherapy that we did with the clinical trial,” reads Facebook. “The goal is to achieve remission and extend his life while maintaining his quality of life.”
Scientists have long pointed to commonalities between the non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL) that affects both dogs and humans. NHL represents 7 to 14 percent of all cancers diagnosed in dogs, and B-cell is the most common and most treatable of the 30-some forms of canine lymphoma. Canine versions of the disease are considered comparable in many ways to human NHL varieties; they’re nearly indistinguishable under the microscope and tend to respond similarly to chemotherapy.
While it’s unclear how many dogs are diagnosed with NHL annually, this year 73,000 people in the U.S. will face such a diagnosis. The five-year relative survival rate for human patients is 63 percent, according to the American Cancer Society, while the 10-year survival rate is 51 percent.
Nero’s condition was discovered when Deputy Marc Nye, his police partner of four years, took him to a local vet after finding a lump on his throat. The K9 continues to work in between treatments and has been the recipient of many Facebook messages from well-wishers. The page contains multiple photos of and posts about Nero’s years of dedicated service, including a news story about his starring role in the search and rescue of a local woman who had wandered from her home.
The clinical trial in which Nero participated is a pilot study of Verdinexor plus RV1001 as a lymphoma treatment. Its purpose is to evaluate biologic activity when the two drugs are administered together, and to assess any related clinical toxicities.
“Nero is still doing OK, but this week has been a lot tougher on him,” reads a mid-May Facebook post. “It's very hard to see him not feeling well, but I know that we are doing what's best for him. At this point Nero is still working, but we have reached a point where he will not be able to continue when he is not feeling well. As always, we appreciate the prayers and well wishes.”
Similar lymphoma clinical trials for dogs continue at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“It is our hope that (our) research in canine lymphomas will discover new ways of treating NHL in both dogs and humans,” notes the Purdue website. “Our goal is to improve the outlook for dogs and humans affected with this all-too-common cancer.”