Veterinary Neurology of the Chesapeake | Jay McDonnell, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM | Annapolis & Towson, MD


Dr. Jay McDonnell has announced that Veterinary Neurology of the Chesapeake is participating in two brain tumor research projects that could one day impact how human brain tumors are treated.


News: VNoC Participating in Two Brain Research Projects


"There is a lot of interest in using dogs for brain tumor research because they are the only species that has naturally occurring brain tumors at the same rate as humans," Dr. McDonnell explains. "Thus canines provide a more realistic model because the tumors are naturally occurring, rather than implanted in mice or grown in Petri dishes."


"You're probably familiar with the saying that one dog year equals 7 human years. By studying these spontaneously-occurring tumors in animals, on a compressed scale we can anticipate that a treatment that results in a one year survival rate in dogs, for example, will likely result in a 5-7 year survival rate in humans."


The two trials VNoC is participating in are:

  • a canine vaccine trial led by G. Elizabeth Pluhar, DVM, PhD at the University of Minnesota, that is studying malignant gliomas and meningiomas and has shown extended survival with both tumor types.
  • molecular combinatorial therapy for canine malignant gliomas led by Dr. John Rossmeisl of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.


The Canine Vaccine Trial

For this trial, the presence of a glioma or meningioma must first be confirmed by MRI. Dr. McDonnell then removes the tumor which is biopsied, and then sent to Dr. Pluhar at the University of Minnesota. She grows the cells in tissue culture, selecting for tumor cells. These tumor cells are killed, sliced and mixed with cytokines to create a cancer vaccine that stimulates cells of the patient's immune system to recognize and destroy tumors within the brain. The cancer vaccine is administered at VNoC.


According to Dr. McDonnell, "These vaccines have decreased the size of tumors without complications except for a local vaccine reaction in a few pets. This has extended the survival rate in patients with both glioma and meningioma."


The trial at the University of Minnesota is funded by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. These funds cover treatment for gliomas, but not meningiomas.


The canine brain tumor clinical trials program will consider any dog that has a tumor that originated in the brain. Both the dog and dog owner must have the ability to complete the trial, which generally lasts for about six months. During this time, the dog will need to return to VNoC at least twice following the initial treatment.


Molecular Combinatorial Therapy for Canine Malignant Gliomas

This trial has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and, once the presence of a glioma is confirmed by MRI, is free.


The animals stays 5–10 days for treatment. During the first anesthetic procedure, cells are removed from the tumor and diagnosed. During a second course of anesthesia, an antibody-linked cytotoxin, a type of chemotherapeutic drug, is injected directly into the tumor during a procedure termed Convection Enhanced Delivery (CED). CED is performed by inserting specialized catheters directly into the tumor, then slowly infusing the drugs over several hours. The treatment is monitored continuously using MRI to enable the neurosurgeon to precisely track the drug delivery. The chemotherapeutic drugs used are unique in that they are taken up by cancerous cells, but not normal brain tissue.


"To date, they've done nearly a dozen animals and all have done well, though the results are preliminary," continues Dr. McDonnell. "Dogs of any age, breed, or sex who are age three and over and less than 99 pounds are considered for the trial. The dog must show clinical signs of mild to moderate neurologic dysfunction referable to the brain; MRI evidence of a single telencephalic intra-axial mass lesion consistent with a glioma; and have no clinical or other diagnostic evidence of other significant systemic disease."


For more information about either of these trials, referring veterinarians should contact Dr. McDonnell at (410) 224-0121 then press 5, or email

Board Certified Veterinary Neurologist Dr. Jay McDonnell | Annapolis & Towson, MD