A pioneer in lymphoma treatment

Madras Veterinary College has evolved a 25-week protocol

Published - January 21, 2022 01:49 am IST

A lifeline:  The protocol is being followed all over the world. The college has so far treated around 100 dogs free.

A lifeline: The protocol is being followed all over the world. The college has so far treated around 100 dogs free.

It was a double-whammy for Rocky, a dog of native breed. Its pet parent had died in a road accident at Poonamallee, a Chennai suburb, and it was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer common among dogs.

Fortunately, the mother of the pet parent decided to spare no effort to save the dog; she felt it was the best thing she could do in her daughter’s memory.

Rocky, who would have died in a few weeks, has lived on for six months, and is expected to live another year. It is not just Rocky. Appu, Brook, Julie, Sweety and five others are in remission, having been treated by the Canine Lymphoma Centre of the Madras Veterinary College (MVC) at Vepery, a pioneering institution.

Extension sought

“The project was funded by the Department of Biotechnology of the Central government in 2018... Now we are running it with available resources. It will be of great help if the project is extended. The study of canine lymphoma can offer insights into human Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma as a comparative model,” said M. Chandrasekar, Professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine.

He had undergone a programme in the U.S. in lymphoma treatment.

The lymphoma centre has evolved a 25-week protocol for treatment. It is being followed all over the world. It has so far treated around 100 dogs free. The prognosis, however, depends on the five stages of the disease. Prognosis is poor for stage three when all lymph nodes are involved, stage four when the liver and the spleen are affected and stage five when the cancer has affected the bone marrow.

A long period

“The treatment can extend the life between seven months and one-and-a-half years, and it is a long period in the life of a dog since lymphoma affects dogs at their middle age. The objective of the treatment is to improve the quality of life for the man’s best friend,” said P. Selvaraj, Professor of Medicine.

The MVC is a leading centre in the country in the early screening and diagnosis of B and T cells using flow cytometry, which is available at the Translational Research Platform for Veterinary Biologicals (TRPVB) at Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Madhavaram.

The lymphoma centre regularly receives samples from neighbouring States. Dr. Chandrasekar is in touch with the Italy-based European Canine Lymphoma Network.

Even though it is not clear on what causes the disease Dr. Chandrasekar and Dr. Selvaraj said lymphoma was detected mostly in urban areas and pollution could be a factor. While breeds, such as the Golden Retriever, Basset Hound and Boxer, are found to be prone to lymphoma, other breeds too can be afflicted with the disease.

“Polluted water and food and passive smoking can cause lymphoma in dogs. Constant use of insecticidal drugs to control ticks and fleas can result in the disease,” said Dr. Chandrasekar, advising pet parents to watch for early symptoms.

The centre has also published a booklet and a manual for owners. “There will be swellings in the chest. They may grow to the size of a tennis ball. Similar swelling can appear on the legs and other nodules. The dog will become dull and may refuse food. Swellings near the chest will cause difficulty in breathing,” he said.


The diagnosis is done through scanning and a fine needle aspiration and flow cytometry. “Chemotherapy is the first line of treatment. It is almost like the protocol followed to treat human beings,” Dr. Chandrasekar said.

But it is essential to stabilise other parameters before chemotherapy. Complete blood profile is done before starting chemotherapy. “Chemotherapy should be done only in bio-safety cabins. Just a drop of the drug can burn a large portion of the skin, and inhaling of the drug is also dangerous,” explained Dr. Selvaraj.

In most cases, the symptoms will disappear, and the dogs will become normal. When there is a relapse, it will be difficult for the animal as the lymphoma cells develop resistance to drugs used for chemotherapy. “What holds good for humans also holds good for dogs. Do not miss the annual check-up of your doctor. It will help in early diagnosis of all diseases,” stressed Dr. Chandrasekar.

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