Uncommon Bond

All About Animals

POSTED: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 10:02am

UPDATED: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 10:15am

A brain cancer study is giving new meaning to man's best friend.

Piper, a 14-year-old golden retriever received her final cancer vaccine at the University of Minnesota's small animal clinic on Monday.

The golden retriever was diagnosed with brain cancer in May.

Piper is one of 60 dogs being treated with an experimental vaccine made from her own cancer cells.

The vaccine trains Piper's immune system to attack the tumor.

One of the first dogs to try this was Batman, a shepherd mix, three years ago.

Since then the experiment has moved from dogs to humans.

John Huls was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago.

He is being treated with a vaccine similar to Piper's.

Huls met the Piper for the very first time on Monday.

"We've bonded," Huls said.

Prior to this treatment Huls underwent surgery, intense chemo and radiation.

He said he felt sick after the treatments and wanted an alternative.

He signed up for the clinical cancer study in January.

"This has been a good send. I've never felt better. I have good stamina, good vitality. My cognitive functions are as good as they ever were," he said.

Researchers like Dr. John Ohlfest with the Masonic Cancer Center said it's too early to tell if this treatment is safe and effective but said they are happy with the progress they are seeing in the dog and human trials.

"We did three dose levels. This is the maximum dose and we're still not seeing any toxicity so we believe we've achieved the objectives of the trial," Ohlfest said.

Huls and Piper still have a long way to go but they are hopeful this brings them one step closer to being cancer free.

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