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Aurora -- Dr. Carol Osborne of the Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic is actively seeking a successful cancer treatment for dogs, and an Aurora family is especially thankful for her hard work.
Working with the Australian company Biotempus, Osborne and her staff are part of an international cancer trial studying the synchronization of immunotherapy.
"The theory is that in all of our bodies -- dogs, cats and even us -- there are different populations of white blood cells. T-cells are one of the populations," Osborne said, adding that there are good T-cells and bad T-cells.
By studying a dog's blood daily, the Australian veterinarians figured out that a dog's immune system cycles every one to two weeks.
"By documenting the specific algorithm of a [particular] dog, we can figure out what exact day the dog's immune system is operating at an optimum level at a specific time," Osborne said. "When that is determined, the owner gives the dog an oral dose of chemotherapy."
Osborne explained that the chemotherapy targets the bad T-cells and allows the good T-cells to recognize the cancer cells as foreign and eliminate them naturally.
The dog is rechecked at one week, two weeks and four weeks after the pill is given. "What's nice is that there's no adverse reaction for the dog -- no vomiting, hair loss or diarrhea," she said.
MaryKay Misterka and her husband Dan were desperately seeking help for their 8-year-old dog Bear when they saw an article about Osborne's clinic in a local daily newspaper.
BEAR, A Newfoundland / rottweiler / pitbull mix, was suffering from bone cancer and had a cantaloupe-sized growth on his leg when he met Osborne.
While Bear's story unfortunately does not have a happy ending -- he died in September -- Misterka wants to make sure that other dog owners know about the cancer treatments available.
"Dr. Osborne is doing amazing research," Misterka said. "She gave him a very good quality of life. He would not have survived the summer."
Bear was even able to travel with the family to the Outer Banks in May and to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore for July 4 festivities.
The Misterkas and Bear met in one of those universe-aligning-right kind of moments. It was New Year's Eve eight years ago, and the only veterinarian open to help their sick, 16-year-old cat was in Cleveland.
"This big scary guy came in with a box of puppies and asked if anyone wanted one," Misterka said, adding that the puppies were found along Interstate 271. "We were kind of afraid to say no."
But once the Misterkas saw Bear, they knew he was theirs. They took him home that night. "His eyes weren't even open yet," Misterka said.
For the next seven years, Bear lived a happy life with the family and their two border collies.
In May, when Bear first arrived at Osborne's clinic, he was heavily medicated to control his pain. Misterka said Osborne cut Bear's pain management back to one medication and put him on a natural diet of chicken and vegetables.
THEY EVEN used Deep Blue, an essential oil, on his paws to help with the pain.
"We ended up buying a bottle for my 84-year-old aunt," Misterka said, adding that her aunt swears by it. "We have been able to transfer treatments to family members."
Bear also had his blood tested daily to figure out what exact day and time his immune system was in top fighting form so he could get his chemo pill.
"We noticed a huge difference," Misterka said.
Another key component in the treatment plan was Halle, Osborne's daughter, who works at the clinic.
"She is amazing," Misterka said. "She has a way of putting dogs at ease. She helps so much. Bear was always happy to see her."
Bear had three rounds of chemotherapy before he died.
"It was working," Misterka said. "He had this huge cantaloupe on his leg and people were shocked that he was wagging his tail and happy."
Osborne is exclusively working with dogs that have different forms of cancer. There is a golden retriever with cartilage cancer in his shoulder, a dog in Mentor with liver cancer and a few other dogs with bone cancer.
"There's a rottweiler in the Cleveland area with bone cancer. He has started to walk and run again," Osborne said. "His lesion is regressing.
"Immunotherapy represents a cancer cure for the future for all of us -- two-legged and four-legged," Osborne said.
"We are so excited about what she's doing," Misterka said. "There are so many other options out there. It was too late for us, but maybe this can help others. This can be Bear's legacy."