5 questions to ask about cancer therapies

In a recent issue of DVM 360, Dr. Michael O. Childress, associate professor of comparative oncology at Purdue University, discussed five important questions to ask when exploring treatment options for a dog with cancer.

While your veterinarian will make recommendations, your involvement in your dog’s care is important too. Consider the following:

  1. Does this therapy appear in peer-reviewed scientific literature? This means that multiple people with expertise in canine cancer have evaluated the treatment and determined that the results from those research studies are credible. 
  2. Are there published clinical trials that have used this therapy in dogs with naturally occurring disease? In this case, the reports would show results of using this method for dogs with the same cancer as your dog — while they continue to navigate life out in “the real world.”
  3. What are the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of the drug being considered? Basically, this means that the metabolism, actions and effects of the medication have been studied in live animals (not just in cell cultures contained in laboratory petri dishes) and that these factors have been evaluated in dogs, not just in mice or other species.
  4. How was the benefit of this drug evaluated? There are two primary ways to look at effectiveness of a chemotherapy drug. The first is the effect on the actual tumor, i.e., did it shrink? Second is whether or not it increased the life span or quality of life of the dogs who were treated with it.
  5. What side effects and complications may occur as a result of using this medication? For example, vomiting for a week may be acceptable to you, but permanent incontinence may not.

This article has been reprinted with permission from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s DogWatch newsletter, published by Belvoir Media Group. When you become a member of the Riney Canine Health Center, you will receive a free subscription to DogWatch.