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FDA gives full approval to new canine lymphoma drug

“It’s a very exciting time to be an oncologist,” Sue Ettinger, DVM, DACVIM told NEWStat 

Ettinger, a leading veterinary oncologist, said that’s partly because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave their full approval to the drug Tanovea for treatment of lymphoma in dogs in mid-July. The agency conditionally approved Tanovea to treat canine lymphoma in 2016, making it the first conditionally approved new animal drug for dogs to achieve the FDA’s full approval. 

Ettinger says that initial conditional approval was a big deal, because veterinarians have had five years to familiarize themselves with Tanovea. The full approval increases that comfort level, she adds: “It’s not like, ‘Hey, there’s this new cancer drug I need to learn how to use.”   

Although canine lymphoma affects fewer than 70,000 dogs in the US each year, it accounts for up to 24% of all cancers in dogs, making it one of the most significant canine cancers. But there haven’t been a lot of treatment options.  

That’s changing. 

In addition to Tanovea, the FDA has given veterinary oncologists a couple of other new weapons in their cancer-fighting arsenal: the FDA gave full approval to Stelfonta, the first intratumoral injection to treat non-metastatic mast cell tumors in dogs, in November of 2020. And last January, the agency gave conditional approval to Laverdia-CA1, an oral tablet developed to treat canine lymphoma. 

Ettinger doesn’t think the full approval will affect owner perception of Tanovea one way or the other.  

She said owner trust in a drug is generally based on their level of trust in the veterinarian recommending it. “When I walk in a room and I tell a client something is conditionally licensed versus fully licensed, I don’t know if that makes a difference to them,” she said.  It’s a different story when she’s talking to general practice veterinarians treating cancer in their practice. “When an oncologist recommends the drug . . . it helps them feel more comfortable recommending it to their clients.”  

Ettinger says the first-line treatment for canine lymphoma is usually a multi-agent chemotherapy protocol known as CHOP (an acronym for the four drugs used in the protocol—cyclophosphamide, hydroxydaunorubicin [doxorubicin], Oncovin [a trade name of vincristine], and prednisone), which is expensive and requires weekly office visits. 

She says Tanovea gives owners the option of coming in less frequently, it’s less expensive, and it works. This combination made Tanovea a popular option in the last couple of years, especially during COVID when weekly visits for a CHOP protocol could be problematic. 

Ettinger said Tanovea isn’t her first-line protocol for an owner who wants to ‘do everything possible’ for a sick pet.  “But it’s definitely my second-line protocol.” 

Ettinger said CHOP will continue to be the first-line chemotherapy protocol for canine lymphoma.  

But for owners who aren’t up for the time and expense the CHOP protocols require, “I’ll usually alternate Tanovea with [doxorubicin], which is a very effective chemotherapy protocol. Not as good [as CHOP], but again it allows the owners to come in for six treatments every three weeks, and so it’s a really great alternative.”  

See Sue Ettinger speak in person about what’s new in cancer at Connexity 2021 in Scottsdale, Arizona, this September. Register now. 

Photo credit: © johnemac72 / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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