“She’s always been very vocal and sassy,” Jellybean’s owner Patti Mendonca said.
Patti and her husband Zach have raised their 4-year-old Lab mix since she was a puppy.
“We spoil her….she’s our baby princess,” Patti said.
They knew something wasn’t right after noticing a lump on Jellybean’s leg in 2020.
“I started doing a little research on my phone ,
And the minute I saw the word cancer, I was like ‘No.'” Zach said.
“This could be bad,” Patti said.
A series of tests led to a deadly diagnosis… An aggressive bone cancer that also develops in children.
“It was definitely like taking a sledgehammer right to the chest,” Zach said.
Without treatment, Jellybean would only have weeks to live.
Veterinarians amputated her leg and began several rounds of chemotherapy to prolong her life.
But even with surgery, the cancer spread to Jellybean’s lungs.
“This is the moment that we didn’t want to see,” Zach said.
“There’s only so much we can do,” Patti said.
The Mendoncas decided to take a chance on an experimental study at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. It’s funded in part by a federal program aimed at reducing human cancer deaths.
“At this point we were like- if she can help other dogs, then eventually humans, great. We didn’t have high hopes for her,” Patti said.
“It was definitely one of our darker moments,” Zach said.
Researchers at Tufts put Jellybean on an aggressive cocktail of three different medicines.
The treatment retrained the dog’s immune system to attack cancer cells.
“We’re using this triple threat to not just go after one component of the immune system that’s not working, but three different components,” Dr. Cheryl London, associate dean of research and graduate education and veterinary oncologist at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University said.
After only two months, the tumors shrank.
“When I heard that there was actually reduction, it’s like the wind got knocked out of me,” Zach said.
And now two years later, Jellybean is in complete remission.
“There was no hope, then all of a sudden, somebody reached out and said, ‘here’s the hope,'” Patti said.
You know the saying one human year is more like seven years for a dog? That’s part of what makes this research so promising.
We have similair immune systems and battle many of the same cancers as dogs.
Their lives go by much faster so life-saving discoveries can be made faster as well.
“She is a miracle,” Patti said.
Doctors hope their research will point to a cure for this kind of bone cancer in *all* dogs and eventually in humans.
“It is a remarkable story. It’s really personally rewarding and exciting to see something happen that has tremendous value for translating to human cancer treatment,” Dr. London said
“It’s almost hard to comprehend just imagining how important she could be to medicine and science,” Zach said.
“It’s mind blowing,” Patti said
Jellybean’s medical trial is over, but she visits her medical team every two months for continued check-ups.
Tufts animal trials that are underway-– click here to see more.