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Tag: vaccine

Batman leaves a legacy of hope behind

batmandogWord came this week that Batman, the dog whose brain tumor was being successfully treated with an experimental gene therapy at the University of Minnesota, has died of pneumonia.

“I wanted to let you know that sadly we lost Batman a few weeks ago,” his owner, Anna Brailovsky, wrote ohmidog! in an email. “The very good news is that it was not to brain cancer, so we can still consider him to be a great success story.”

Brailovsky and her husband Eric Baker found Batman him on the streets of Berlin as graduate students in 1999. He returned with the couple to the United States in 2001, and was happy and healthy until he had a series of seizures in 2008.

A tumor was diagnosed and Batman ended up at the University of Minnesota, where Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar, a veterinary surgery professor, and John Ohlfest, a pediatrics professor, had been considering an experimental brain tumor treatment for about three years.

Batman underwent the procedure — which, though it had been tried on mice, had never used on a dog before. Surgeons removed most of Batman’s tumor, much of which was then used to make a vaccine for the dog.  A year later the tumor was gone.

The experimental treatment could someday help people with the same disease.

“The study now has many more dogs in various stages of treatment and recovery, and they are steadily moving toward developing the protocol for human trials,” Brailovsky said.

To keep Batman’s memory, she and her family created a website that tells his story and features a university-made video on his treatment:


“Every dog is special to his family, but we were extremely fortunate that Batman’s life also had an impact on the lives of many others,” the website says.

“In the 18 months following the surgery and vaccine protocol, Batman was almost entirely back to his normal,  self, and we cherished every extra trip to the park and every extra cuddle on the couch that the experimental treatment had granted us. It was a miraculous gift.

“Unfortunately, curing the brain tumor did not get rid of the seizures originally caused by the tumor growth. With his indefatiguable spirit, Batman repeatedly recovered from the aftermath of a half-dozen serious grand mal episodes that left him temporarily blind and weakened for hours, sometimes days, at a time. He always bounced back as strong and healthy as ever, and we are deeply saddened that our miraculous survivor has finally ran out of second chances.

“On Wednesday, January 13, 2010 Batman suffered a prolonged series of seizures (and likely a stroke) that left him with severe muscle damage and immobolized him for several days. A fighter to the last, he was beginning to regain his strength and appetite when he was suddenly overcome by rapidly progressing pneumonia on the morning of January 18…

“It was a heartbreaking decision, but we had to let him go. He died in his favorite place on the couch.”

Norfolk SPCA offers cut rate dog flu vaccine

Concerned that cases of a highly contagious dog flu might be on the rise in Virginia, the Norfolk SPCA has vaccinated its shelter residents and is offering the two-shot vaccine series to local dogs for $45.

The H3N8 influenza virus is fatal to about 5 percent of dogs that catch it, the SPCA said in a news release. Symptoms include persistent sneezing and sniffling, coughing with a yellow discharge, and unusual fatigue.

The SPCA said suspected cases have been reported in Williamsburg and at the Norfolk Animal Care Center, the city’s animal shelter.

“If a dog sneezes and another dog walks by, he can catch it – that’s how contagious it is,” said Michelle Williams, SPCA director of donor and community relations.

All 70 dogs housed at the SPCA’s shelter have been given the vaccine, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

Barbara Hays, manager of the Animal Care Center, told the newspaper that tests haven’t come back yet on a dog in its care that died after being adopted. Although no other dogs have gotten sick, the shelter limited contact with outside dogs for about a week but isn’t vaccinating dogs, she said.

H3N8 is a type A influenza that is suspected to have started at a Florida greyhound track and has spread to 30 states. As of last year, 1,079 cases had been confirmed, Tampa Bay Online recently reported.

Virtually all dogs exposed to the virus become infected, though only about 80 percent will develop symptoms, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The AVMA recommends that people who work with dogs in shelters, kennels and dog day care centers wash their hands when they arrive, and before and after handing any dogs.

For an AVMA fact sheet about canine influenza, click here.

Zap! Batman’s tumor disappears

p2batmanbIt has been a year since we last checked in on Batman – around the time researchers at the University of Minnesota began an experimental procedure to save him from an aggressive brain tumor.

The 13-year-old shepherd mix had a form of brain cancer called a glioma — the same type of cancer Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy is battling.

University of Minnesota veterinary surgeon G. Elizabeth Pluhar, who has spent the past year caring for Batman, said last week his tumor seems to have disappeared, according to the Associated Press.

“I don’t see any tumor right now,” she says. “Which is wonderful.”

Gliomas are tricky to treat because they send out little tentacles that infiltrate other parts of the brain, and surgery alone usually isn’t sufficient to cure a glioma.

Researchers from the vet school devised a treatment for Batman that began with surgery, followed by gene therapy and a custom-made, anticancer vaccine designed to boost his immune system.

Researcher John Ohlfest, who helped create the new immune therapies, said the vaccine is made up of dead cancer cells from Batman’s tumor that have been enhanced in a way that makes them much more obvious to the dog’s immune system.

Read more »

Dog flu vaccine approved for marketing

A flu vaccine for dogs has received a conditional license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health said this week its canine influenza vaccine is the first approved to protect dogs from the contagious respiratory illness known as the H3N8 flu virus, which was first recognized in 2004 after an outbreak among Florida greyhounds.

Since then, it has continued to spread and has now been detected in dogs in 30 states and the District of Columbia, according to a company press release.

The disease does not affect people, but can be passed among dogs or from a human carrier to a dog .

Dogs have no natural immunity to the virus, which is related to an equine flu strain. The most common symptoms are a cough, high fever and nasal discharge. Most cases are mild, but a severe illness can lead to pneumonia and become fatal.

Batman in the fight of his life

This is a different kind of Batman, with a different kind of nemesis – a 10-year-old German shepherd-mix with a brain tumor, who’s the first dog to be treated with a new and experimental vaccine and gene therapy at the University of Minnesota.

A compelling account of his family’s fight to save him appeared this week in the student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily.

Batman’s owners,  Anna Brailovsky and her husband Eric Baker, found him on the streets of Berlin as graduate students in 1999.

They lost him, then found him three days later — a sure sign to them that they were meant to be together.  Batman returned with the couple to the United States in 2001, and was happy and healthy until he had a series of seizures about three weeks ago, often a sign of a brain tumor.

In July,  the tumor was diagnosed, and the couple was considering options when the University called with a new plan.

Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar , a veterinary surgery professor, and John Ohlfest , a pediatrics professor, had been considering an experimental brain tumor treatment for about three years.

Last week, Batman underwent the procedure — which, though it had been tried on mice, had never used on a dog before. Surgeons removed most of Batman’s tumor, much of which will be used to make a vaccine for the dog. Gene therapy was then used to try and make the remaining tumor cells recognizable to the body.

Batman’s tumor, doctors said, was similar to that which affected U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Ohlfest said they hope to try the treatment in about 20 dogs before trying to get approval to test it in people, possibly applying for a treatment permit within three years.

The University is taking care of the couple’s bill.  In the next few months, the veterinarians said, Batman will receive the vaccine and further monitoring.

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Courtesy of Minnesota Daily)