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First-Class Cancer Care for Man’s Best Friend


Josie the dog is first to complete clinical trial for deadly dog cancer


Josie the dog and 2-year-old Charlotte relaxing at their home.

Credit: Wes and Heidi Robertson

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At 12 years old (84 in dog years), the Robertson family’s beloved terrier mix, Josie, had been through it all. She had a tattoo of the phone number from the “last chance” shelter where her family rescued her, she had had both knees repaired, was injured when a bigger dog attacked her, and was losing her sight and hearing with age — all before she was diagnosed with one of the deadliest cancers known to dogkind, hemangiosarcoma. 

The Robertsons’ vet referred Josie to be part of a clinical trial at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, which may have offered Josie better prospects. The trial is for an FDA-approved drug that is typically used in humans to treat breast cancer that has spread, and it is one of several clinical trials conducted this year by the Johns Hopkins Center for Image-Guided Animal Therapy, an imaging and treatment facility geared specifically for pets. The center is co-directed by Dara Kraitchman, V.M.D., Ph.D., and Rebecca Krimins, D.V.M., who coordinated Josie’s care. They, along with their team, see about 10 veterinary patients per week, mainly dogs and cats but also birds, small mammals and zoo animals. In addition to offering diagnostic advanced imaging, the clinical trials performed at the center are typically free of charge to the pet owner, a wonderful support that benefits the veterinary population.

Six months after her diagnosis, Josie beat the odds, but she has since died from her cancer. She is the only dog to have fought cancer long enough to complete the clinical trial. Her energy and good spirit caused everyone she met to fall in love with her, including her veterinary team at Johns Hopkins. Her family says they are grateful for the additional time they were able to spend with Josie and hope that her legacy can inform future research on this cancer and other diseases affecting pets.

Download interviews with Josie’s owners, Heidi and Wes Robertson, and b-roll of Josie and 2-year-old Charlotte Robertson.

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