Targets Newly Diagnosed Cases

Dr. Olya Smrkovski is a board-certified veterinary oncologist at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Olya Smrkovski, an oncology specialist at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, is the principle investigator for a new clinical trial for dogs with appendicular osteosarcoma – bone cancer of the leg. Photo by G. Hirshoren, ​courtesy UTCVM. Download image.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Oncology Service at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM) is offering a clinical trial for dogs with newly diagnosed appendicular osteosarcoma. Appendicular osteosarcoma (bone cancer of the leg) is a common bone cancer in large-breed dogs. It is an aggressive cancer, both at the tumor site and systemically. Over time, cancer spreads to the lungs in all patients. 

Currently, the standard of care for dogs with this cancer is amputation of the affected limb followed by a course of chemotherapy. The average survival time for a dog treated with the standard of care is one year. Dr. Olya Smrkovski, an oncology specialist and the clinical trial’s principle investigator at UTCVM, says the profession has not been able to exceed the year survival rate because of the metastatic characteristic of the cancer. 

“Oncologists are looking for new therapies that will prolong our pets' survival. The investigational agent in this trial has shown some initial promise as an anti-cancer drug. We hope that it will help delay the spread of this type of cancer,” says Smrkovski. “Canine osteosarcoma is very similar to pediatric osteosarcoma, so another hope of this trial is that if the investigational agent shows promise in dogs, it can then be used to treat humans. So this is a ‘dogs helping humans/humans helping dogs’ type of clinical trial.”

This is a randomized clinical trial for dogs with newly diagnosed appendicular osteosarcoma sponsored by Morris Animal foundation and the National Cancer Institute. All dogs will receive standard of care therapy as a part of the trial. Once the standard of care treatment is completed, some dogs may receive an investigational agent. A screening visit to determine eligibility is required, and dogs must be referred to UTCVM by their primary care veterinarian.

Smrkovski says the trial is almost fully funded by the Morris Animal Foundation. “They pay for all chemotherapy treatments, some of the screening tests, and provide $1000 toward limb amputation surgery to the owners of the qualified dogs. Basically, if you were looking to treat your dog with the standard of care out of your own pocket, the initial work-up, amputation and a course of chemo would cost between $4000 and $5000.” With this trial, the owner's cost will be between $1500 and $2000. All dogs will receive at least the standard of care therapy. Some will also receive the free investigational agent.

For more information, please contact the Clinical Trials Coordinator Gina Galyon, LVMT, 865-974-8387 prior to referral.

One of 30 veterinary colleges in the United States, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine educates students in the art and science of veterinary medicine and related biomedical sciences, promotes scientific research and enhances human and animal well-being. 

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Sandra Harbison, CVM media relations, 865-974-7377,