Like most dogs, Wiley spends his days going on walks with his owner and playing at the park. As a Blue Heeler, a breed known for herding other animals, Wiley’s favorite activity is wrangling seagulls at the beach. Though he might seem like an average dog, Wiley is more than that. He’s a cancer survivor.
In the summer of 2019, after the dog began gaining weight and coughing when he drank, owner Jackie Craig was informed of Wiley’s diagnosis: B-cell lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. At the time, Dr. Edmund Sullivan of Bellingham Veterinary believed Wiley was “unlikely to survive for six months.” Now a year later, thanks to an innovative treatment, Wiley is healthy and happy.
The treatment, adoptive T-cell therapy, works by first extracting blood from the dog. Then the anti-cancer T-cells from the blood are put into a culture with a dead tumor to attack. Once the cells expand and become stronger anti-cancer cells, they are injected back into the dog. For Wiley, this technique was used along with standard chemotherapy and the dog went into remission a few months after treatment.
Since then, Wiley has only had one slight relapse: A cancerous lump on his skin that didn’t enter into his bloodstream, said Dr. Kevin Steele, an oncologist who worked with Dr. Sullivan to treat Wiley. The lump was treated with chemotherapy and adoptive T-cell therapy and Wiley continues to be in remission. According to Dr. Sullivan, one year of remission in dogs is equivalent to seven years in humans. If Wiley stays in remission for two years, he is considered cured, Dr. Steele said.
“It’s a big deal to cross over the one-year mark. That’s a very good sign,” Dr. Steele said.
Craig said, despite the relapse, Wiley’s health has gone “uphill all the way” since his initial treatment. She recommends other people with dogs who need chemotherapy try this alternative treatment and is thankful for the work Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Steele did.
“There’s no words to describe how awesome these guys are. “They treated him like he was their dog.”
“There’s no words to describe how awesome these guys are,” Craig said. “They treated him like he was their dog.”
It remains to be seen whether Wiley will be fully cured, but one thing’s for sure: He’s back to his normal, playful self and very loved by those who care for him.
“He’s not just alive, but he’s thriving,” Dr. Sullivan concluded.
For an in-depth look at adoptive T-cell therapy and Wiley’s initial treatment read The Northern Light’s “Innovative therapy puts Blaine dog’s cancer into remission.”