New chemo drug helping dog with bone cancer

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by Larry Seward / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on July 6, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 6 at 5:29 PM

SPRING, Texas  – A local dog could be a medical breakthrough. 

Wrigley, a 10-year-old English bulldog, was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live.  Nearly two years later, he remains alive.  An experimental drug may be responsible.

Wrigley has no problem walking to his vet.  He doesn’t bark about exams.  He only demands treats.

“Just keep feeding me,” said Darrell Fornell, Wrigley’s owner.  “That’s pretty much his motto.”

Maybe that is Wrigley’s secret to overcoming arthritis in his left hip, an anterior cruciate ligament tear and a missing leg.

“He’s like a child,” Fornell said.  “You’re not going to just turn your back on him.  You’re going to give him everything you can to save him.”

Fornell called his dog an inspiration.  Dr. Barry Schmitt, a partner with Steubner-Airline Veterinary Hospital where Wrigley’s been treated since 2003, considers the dog something else.

“(Wrigley) is the most resilient patient I’ve had in years,” Dr. Schmitt said.

Wrigley has a very aggressive, very malignant bone cancer.

“It is a killer,” Dr. Schmitt said.  “If you look at most of my patients, that owners elect not to treat, are euthanized within six weeks of diagnosis.”

Doctors gave Wrigley six months to live.  Still, his owners spent 10s of thousands of dollars on leg amputation and 15 weeks of chemotherapy.  Somehow, Wrigley remains alive almost 19 months later.

“It’s just unheard of,” Dr. Schmitt said.

“He’s a fighter,” Fornell said.

Perhaps something else could explain Wrigley’s remarkable recovery.  It is a pill called Palladia, the first FDA approved chemo drug for dogs.  Pfizer markets the pill as treatment for skin cancer.  However, oncologists at Texas A&M are seeing surprising results on Wrigley.  He takes Palladia every other day.  His tumors are shrinking.

“He’s breaking ground here,” Dr. Schmitt said.  “Is it the Palladia?  There’s no data.  Is it his personality?  I think it’s both.”

If it’s the pill, Wrigley represents hope for other dogs.  If not, he’s still inspiring his owner, who set up a Facebook page in his dog’s honor.

“You have to just keep, everyday, finding a new way to keep going,” Fornell said.

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