Odds Improve for Dogs with Hemangiosarcoma

Photo Credit: Flicker CC, gronga, cottage cheeseA new drug developed at the University of Minnesota is showing significant promise for dogs with hemangiosarcoma (HSA), a frequently diagnosed form of cancer that affects primarily large breed dogs. Recent studies on Golden Retrievers and Vizslas have demonstrated a link between neutering and the occurrence of this disease in these two breeds.

HSA most commonly occurs within the spleen, liver and heart. Because these tumors arise from blood vessel cells, they are extremely vascular (blood filled) and prone to abrupt and dramatic bleeding.

To date, treatment options for HSA have involved removal of the tumor (if possible) followed by chemotherapy. Even with such aggressive therapy, only 50 percent of dogs with this disease survive for as long as four to six months. Just 10 percent survive for a year or longer.


The new chemotherapy drug being used to specifically target HSA is referred to as eBAT. Dr. Daniel Vallera, the University of Minnesota Medical School professor who developed eBAT stated, “HSA is a vascular cancer, meaning it forms blood vessels. eBAT was selected for this trial because it can simultaneously target the tumor and its vascular system.”

Results of a study  using eBAT in clinical cases involved 23 dogs of various breeds and sizes, all documented to have hemangiosarcoma within their spleens. Following splenectomy (removal of the spleen), each dog received three eBAT treatments. Amongst the dogs in this study, the six-month survival rate was 70 percent, and six of the 23 dogs (26 percent) lived for more than 450 days. That’s a remarkable improvement!

According to Dr. Jamie Modiano, professor at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and co-author of the eBAT study results, “This is most likely the most significant advance in the treatment of canine HAS in the last three decades.”

And, compared to chemotherapy drugs that have traditionally been used to treat HSA, negative side effects from eBAT were minimal in the group of dogs studied. Veterinarian and lead author of the study, Dr. Antonella Borgatti stated, “In this trial we aimed for a sweet spot by identifying a dose of eBAT that was effective to treat the cancer, but caused no appreciable harm to the patient. Essentially we’re treating the cancer in a safer and more effective way, improving quality of life and providing a better chance at survival.”

The promising results of this canine HSA study may provide some crossover benefits to the world of human oncology. There are significant similarities between HSA in dogs and a type of cancer in people called angiosarcoma. The results from the canine study make a strong case for clinical trials using eBAT in people with this disease.

What has your experience been with hemangiosarcoma?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.



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22 Comments on “Odds Improve for Dogs with Hemangiosarcoma

  1. I let my 4 year old Grand Champion lines Golden Retriever to HemangioSarc -Large Mass in his heart. He was gone in 12 hours..
    I am heartbroken and devastated, and missing him everyday. I have done a lot of talking to other breeders and am so happy to see the research being done and longevity in the lines-now being something that is being re-considered when breeding programs are being established.
    The breeders are now saying wait until neutering to at least 18-24 months to avoid some of the cancers-or at least early onset of cancerous disease-Lymphoma and HemangioSarc. RIP Lincoln.
    Thank you speaking for spot and Morris Foundation and many dedicated others for supporting this effort..

  2. Dr. Nancy, Do you know if this drug is widely available yet? My 12.4 year old Lab had a splenectomy for a bleeding tumor almost two weeks ago. He has spots on his liver and was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. We are just about to start traditional chemo Friday when I saw this article. We will be visiting Cornell in Stamford CT. Would love to have this as an alternative.

  3. Toni you are publishing a false agenda! It is not ALL breeding that keeps shelters open! Responsible breed preservationists keep track of all the dogs they parent and take them back when an owner can no longer keep them! The RETAIL RESCUE BUSINESS exists and grows due primarily due to two factors. 1) The failure to adequately screen new homes and suitability of the dogs being sold or placed and failure to be responsible for the dogs they sell FOR LIFE taking them back when necessary by pet shops, commercial breeders, and the retail rescue businesses! and 2) the importation of dogs from out of the area or state ( a band aid to those states without adequate laws perpetuating their problems but also insuring the receiving rescues of a cash flow!) and off shore to justify their existence, and expansions!
    Neutering at the young age the rescue community recommends is deleterious to a dogs potential health and development! This procedure should be postponed till the animal is physically mature!

  4. I have lost (not personally but I do my best to stay in touch with ALL owners) several dogs from my breeding to HSA. All 4 (3 different litters over 40 years loosely linebred with periodic outcrosses) were intact. Another was diagnosed with a HSA on the spleen before it burst and had a successful surgery at about 7 yrs. The dog lived to 14 years and died of other causes. All were intact. Thank you for the advice on ultrasounds. Had been told previously that a burst HSA not large enough to show up on an x-ray can cause a dog to bleed out. We have seen this occur way to often with dogs on the coursing field, often just attributed to “sudden death” I am shocked at the recent surge in HSA in my breed (Salukis) as per a survey done by the Parent Club Health Committee but now realize it is as bad in many other breeds as well as in random mixes. Could this point to some environmental factor?
    Last week learned from the Grants Committee that the AKC CHF has just put out a call for research proposals for HSA. YEA!

  5. Hi Meredith,

    Thanks for responding to my blog post. Your questions are good ones and, unfortunately, are too complicated to answer via email. I’ve posted a variety of blog posts on this topic. If you will- go to my blog site (www.speakingforspot.com/blog) and plug spay and/or neuter into the search engine.

    Best wishes,

    Dr. Nancy

  6. Hi Judith. You have waaaay more experience with this horrible disease than anyone should have. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. Our dog Maximus (a Rottweiler) was rescued from a shelter. He was neutered by the shelter at around two months of age yet still suffered from hemangiosarcoma at the age of seven. He underwent a splenectomy at K-State but we opted for holistic medicine rather than chemotherapy as we had seen the effects of chemotherapy on our dog Shaun (a Dobie/Lab mix), who had lymphosarcoma. Devastatingly, Maximus passed away two months after surgery. He was the kindest, sweetest, most gentle and loving soul. I am glad to hear of advances in cancer treatment and hope this drug can help dogs without the side effects of other chemotherapy medication.

  8. What great news. Is this treatment only effective if you can remove the tumor/the primary tumor has not metastasized? I just lost my 12 year old standard poodle on March 22nd. He went in for a splenectomy, but when they opened him up they found that what had looked like a large splenic mass on ultrasound was actually multiple tumors, including one on his bladder that was inoperable.

  9. I have a rescue for pointers. I have been fostering them for many years and have lost at least 10 to this disease. Some were diagnosed, and others died without pre-warning from rupture. I may have lost other dogs from this underdiagnosed disease as well. I started in rescue in the early 1980s. I am happy that progress is being made in researching hemagiosarcoma. It is a terrible disease.

  10. Oh my Cindy- my heartfelt condolences are with you during this difficult time.

    Best wishes,

    Dr. Nancy

  11. I was lucky enough to pick up HSA when the tumour was tiny when the vet was scanning for something else. She removed the spleen and due to his age at the time (14) had no further treatment, we had him for another 18 months. He was neutered at 7 years old and was a midsized mixed breed.

  12. My Beagle died from hemangiosarcoma of spleen 2 weeks ago today. I’m so happy to see this research is so promising. I am heartbroken and would have pursued effective treatment if available but didn’t want to put him through surgery for such a short extension, he turned 14 early February.

  13. hi!
    You mention that Neutering might have an effect. Would you recommend not neutering or is there an age which would help?
    I have a friend who recently lost a dog to this and they think this is what a previous dog might’ve died from years ago.
    All their dogs are male and neutered at 5 years old.

  14. Hi Amy,

    Thank you for your comments- you raise an interesting point. Perhaps abdominal ultrasound should routinely be part of annual screening for senior large breed dogs along with a physical exam, and blood and urine testing. I’ve certainly done so with mine.

    Best wishes,

    Dr. Nancy

  15. Great news. I did not know of this disease with my last two vizslas. They were both neutered males 10 & 11 years old from different breeders and lines. My problem was I did not have vets that obviously looked for this in them even though there were digestive signs present like enlarged firm stomachs after eating and lack of appetite for morning food. There were probably other signs, but being a knewbie in dog ownership, I knew something wasn’t right but trusted their knowledge. Hopefully the vets now have a better grasp of signs and breeds to watch. Doing ultrasound before it’s too late would be a start. They both died with burst tumors 🙁

  16. We lost our first greyhound to hemangiosarcoma at age 10, diagnosed during the necropsy. In her case there were no symptoms until the morning she died, when she suddenly seemed weak, and wouldn’t eat her biscuit. I was such a shock to lose a dog like that. I only hope that there are methods of testing for it before symptoms occur, or the treatment will not help dogs like Alexandra.

  17. I lost my 14 year old intact Rottweiler to hemangioma of the spleen
    I later found great studies about using turkey tail mushroom too late for Bill though

  18. Hello! I found this post because I have a standing google search running on hemangiosarcoma and was alerted to your article this morning. Thanks for writing about the new research; I’ve been following Modiano’s research but had not heard about the potential neutering connection.

    My dog, a small rescue mutt, hit the 2-year mark with HSA last week. We caught and removed her enlarged spleen not long before it would have burst, did the traditional HSA chemo, followed by metronomic therapy and two daily doses of I’m-Yunity, which has some early promise from a small Penn study. I also make all her food to keep it high protein, low fat, and low sugar. She’s still running agility and is a happy girl, though she tires more easily.

    Our vet, who’s been practicing for 35 years, says he’s seeing far more HSA then he used to.

  19. Great news as this cancer causes much heartbreak to our breed, Hungarian Vizsla, I have lost at least two dogs to this. A further problem however is detecting the splenic tumour in time for treatment.

  20. I wish this new drug had been available last year for my 10 yr old Rottie mix, Poppy. She been extremely healthy and active and had exhibited no symptoms until she suddenly started losing her appetite and leaving part of her meal uneaten. I took her to our vet the 2nd day after I noticed her loss of appetite and he did an ultrasound and found a large mass in/on her liver. This was on a Wed. By Sunday, she was not eating at all, was having difficulty breathing and lethargic. I had to take her to the ER and she had to be carried from my car into the exam room. There was nothing that could be done for her and we helped her cross over. It happened so fast………….

  21. I run a dog park and we are seeing more and more large breed owners not neutering their companion non breeders because of cancer scares.The percentages does not warrant their insistence on not altering.
    Our dog park has taken a stand,however,on non altered dogs going or attending events that raise money for shelters since breeding of any sort is what keeps shelters open.
    What are your thoughts on this?

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