Expert Advice from the Animal Medical Center


by New Day Producers

Posted on November 1, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 1 at 12:03 PM

Margaret talked to Dr. Chelsea Tripp, a veterinary oncologist about a new technique to help treat dogs with cancer. Dr. Chelsea Tripp DVM, MS, DACVIM is the only Board Certified Veterinary Oncology Specialist practicing Electrochemotherapy on the west coast. She was the first person trained in Europe to utilize this treatment and has used it for the past two years to treat pets from all over the country. It's exciting news for pets with certain types of cancer in our area since a startling 1 in 4 dogs will develop cancer at some stage in their lifetime. 

Dr. Chelsea Tripp is a Veterinary Oncology Specialists who is Board Certified through the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 

A Veterinary Specialists, just like medical specialists for people, have devoted their lives and careers to a specific course of advanced study and training. After completing four years of Veterinary School, they pursue additional training by completing a one-year internship, followed by an advanced two-three year residency in their area of specialization. In addition, they must publish original research and pass rigorous board examinations to earn the title of Diplomate. It is only after this intensive training that they are permitted to call themselves a “Specialist”. In general, veterinary specialists only provide medical care in their area of expertise and do not offer routine wellness care that a general practice veterinarian does. There are approximately less than 350 Board Certified Veterinary Oncologists in the United States.

Experts estimate that almost 50 percent of all dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer and approximately one in four of all dogs will at some stage in their life develop a cancer.

There are 80 million pet dogs in the US; 55 percent of those are purebred dogs. The incidence of cancer in purebred dogs is substantially higher than the corresponding incidence in people. For example, one in five golden retrievers, one of the most popular breeds in the US, is diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and is likely to die from it. One in eight goldens is diagnosed with and dies from the equivalent of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In the overall dog population, we estimate 300,000 dogs die from lymphoma each year. That’s 375 deaths per 100,000 dogs in the US. Clearly, the causes can’t be environmental alone. Certain purebred dogs have a genetic susceptibility to certain cancers.

Electrochemotherapy is an anti-cancer treatment that couples local administration of chemotherapy drugs to the delivery of pulses of a specific waveform.   The pulses allow for alterations in the cell membrane of the cancer cells such that there is increased uptake of the chemotherapy drugs.  Ultimately this leads to the cell dying. 

It is used in conjunction with chemotherapy (either locally or intravenously), it allows drugs to enter the cells to a very high concentration.  Chemotherapy is widely used for a broad range of cancers. 

Electric pulses can be utilized to cause temporary and reversible permeability of cell membranes to augment the delivery of chemotherapy.  The two drugs of choice are Bleomycin and Cisplatin; as they both are relatively large molecules and poorly permeable on their own.  

This therapy has received considerable attention in the last 15 years as an emerging way of delivering chemotherapy agents to different tumor types.  It can be used as a single modality treatment for small amounts of gross disease or as an adjuvant treatment in humans and our pet species. 

The process does require heavy sedation but is overall well tolerated and many tumors can be treated in only a few treatment sessions. 

Preclinical trials and trials in humans have demonstrated excellent anti-tumor effectiveness of electrochemotherapy on various tumor types, minimal toxicity and safety of the procedure. 

Veterinary studies have demonstrated that electrochemotherapy is very effective in the treatment of cutaneous and subcutaneous tumors of different histologic subtypes in dogs, cats and horses. 

The following are examples of tumor types which are amenable to electrochemotherapy.   In general, tumors need to be superficial or easy to access the tumor bed to be successful with treatment:

• Fibrosarcoma in the mouth or eyelid.

• Melanoma in the mouth, eyelid or paw

• Squamous cell carcinoma in mouth, eyelid, nasal planum or paw.

• Soft tissue sarcomas post debulking surgery where aggressive surgical treatment would necessitate amputation

• Feline vaccine-associated fibrosarcoma after surgery

• Localized cutaneous lymphoma in dogs or cats

• Low to intermediate grade mast cell tumors on distal limb, trunk and face.

• Perianal & rectal tumors

• Operation site margins where there is a significant risk of remaining tumor tissue.

• Sarcoids and squamous cell carcinoma in horses

• Superficial tumors on exotics (small mammals, birds & zoo animals)

Dr. Chelsea Tripp DVM, MS, DACVIM is the only Board Certified Veterinary Oncologist practicing Electrochemotherapy on the west coast. Dr. Tripp participated in the New Day NW Wellness Panel and asnwered questions about the technology from social media and the live audience.  She trained in Europe to utilize this treatment and has used it for the past two years to treat pets from all over the country. 

Her interests include client education, oncologic emergencies, clinical pathology, palliative care and improving quality of life. 

More cancer survivor stories:

Obie - a canine cancer survivor story

Check out Obie's video


Please visit the Animal Medical Center of Seattle website for more information on Electrochemotherapy and Dr. Chelsea Tripp DVM, MS, DACVIM.