Veterinary Clinical Studies Provide Hope for Pet Owners

This entry is article 8 of 9 in the February 2015 issue

It can be devastating when your pet receives a poor medical diagnosis. However, the opportunity to participate in a clinical study may help your pet’s outcome. As in human health, clinical studies can provide hope for a better quality of life for your pet while advancing veterinary medicine. Cummings School has many opportunities for companion animals to participate in clinical studies, which allow veterinarians to investigate and develop more effective diagnostic and treatment options for various disease conditions. Learn more about ongoing clinical studies perhaps your family pet could benefit from Cummings School’s ongoing commitment to finding new medical treatments and cures for life-threatening diseases.

As an academic veterinary medical center, the faculty and staff at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine are constantly exploring new scientific breakthroughs that have the potential to improve quality of life for your pet by providing them with diagnostics and treatments that are still exploratory and otherwise not available. This may take the form of a drug, newly developed medical device, procedure, or a behavioral change, such as diet.

Participation in a clinical study is completely voluntarily and may offer several benefits. Clinical studies not only provide access to cutting edge approaches, but also provide hope when there are few other options for treatment, and may offer your pet a better quality of life or even additional years to live. In addition to the direct benefits of participating in a clinical study, you will feel good knowing that your pet is ultimately contributing to the future of veterinary medicine.

So how safe are clinical studies, you may ask? Your Foster Hospital veterinary specialist may present a clinical study to you as an option when discussing an option plan. Rest assured, your pet will only be enrolling after discussing all options and securing your consent first. And, Cummings School only enrolls patients in studies when initial research indicates that the treatment is safe with little or no risk to them and that the treatment shows promise to be more effective than current treatment protocols. Before enrollment, you will be notified of any potential risks, and at any time throughout the study, our staff is always available to address your questions or concerns.

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine offers numerous clinical trials for clients of its teaching hospitals. Your pet will receive care from a highly specialized support team including a Principal Investigator (PI), a co-PI and a dedicated veterinary technician, who will monitor your pet’s health very closely.

Your Cummings School veterinarian can provide you with information on enrolling in any of our trials or feel free to ask your primary care veterinarian if there may be a study appropriate for your pet’s disease or condition. We are committed to sharing with you all you need to know about your pet’s treatment options, what you can expect, along with ensuring your pet receives the most comprehensive and compassionate care throughout the treatment period.

Learn more about the types of trials we are currently conducting by browsing our complete list.

Comprehensive Care for Dog with Cancer Includes Access to Innovative Clinical Trial

This entry is article 9 of 9 in the February 2015 issue


When Brady, an 11-year-old, mixed breed yellow Labrador, presented to his primary care veterinarian with a lump on his right hind leg in May 2014, it did not appear to be anything of concern. However, after surgery and biopsy results, owner Kory Haag heard the words no pet owner wants to hear: Brady had a high-grade mast cell tumor and would have about six months to live. That was when Kory made an appointment with the oncology specialists at Foster Hospital to explore if there were other treatments they should pursue.

For Kory Haag, it was an instinctual decision to bring Brady to Foster Hospital. He had previously brought his dog there for the treatment of epilepsy and was pleased with the care received.


Brady had the opportunity to see not one, but two of the oncology residents, Kelly Kezer, BVSc, and Bobbi McQuown, DVM, who both consulted on his case. Testing was completed and Brady underwent further surgery to ensure all the cancer cells had been removed. Brady then received an injectable chemotherapy agent once a week for four weeks, which was administered on site at Foster Hospital. He was subsequently transitioned to an oral small molecule inhibitor that targets a mutation found to be present on Brady’s mast cell tumor.

Individuals bring their pets to an academic veterinary medical center because they offer a comprehensive, one-stop resource for high-caliber, advanced and specialty veterinary services. That includes access to the latest research and leading edge treatments available.

For Brady, this presented an opportunity to take part in a study exploring the impact of a novel diet in dogs with cancer. Cancer is far too often diagnosed in older dogs and it is becoming more common for owners to treat their pets with chemotherapy. The goal of the study was to determine whether a specially formulated diet might reduce the gastrointestinal side effects that can accompany chemotherapy and improve their quality of life.

It was easy,” said Kory. “I merely filled out an enrollment form and was provided the food to feed Brady. It involved giving Brady a certain number of calories per day and was limited to specific “treats”. I also had to document what he ate as well as his bowel movements and it was all done online.”

Brady adapted well to the diet and easily transitioned to a commercial brand of food after the study was completed.


It is now almost eight months since Brady’s cancer diagnosis and Brady has a new leash on life, enjoying a very active lifestyle with ongoing therapy. While the collective results of the diet study will not be available for another year, Brady’s ultrasounds and blood work have been consistently favorable. Dr. Kezer remarked at how amazed she is when she hears about the hikes that owner Kory and Brady continue to take, including mountain climbs.

And Kory can’t say enough about the caring staff at Foster Hospital. When he recently discovered another small lump on Brady’s leg in January, he grew concerned. Within two days, he was scheduled to see Dr. McQuown and fortunately it turned out to be just fatty tissue. He also commented on how accommodating the staff was in scheduling Brady’s chemotherapy since he was traveling from Holyoke.

As the only academic veterinary center in New England, we are dedicated to providing care in a compassionate environment to heal the animals we see each and every day. For Brady, that offered the chance to get all of his services in one place, including his surgery, chemotherapy administration and ongoing medical follow-up. What is highly encouraging for pet owners is the exploratory research studies that we offer that provide hope, a better quality of life and additional time that companion pets can spend with their families.

Cailin Heinze, VMD, DACVN, Leads New Diet Study in Dogs Undergoing Chemotherapy

This entry is article 7 of 9 in the February 2015 issue

Heinze Calin (2)Cailin Heinze, VMD, DACVN, grew up on a small hobby farm outside of Pittsburgh and idolized her family’s veterinarian. By the time she was seven, she was certain that she would become a veterinarian. After earning her veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania and working in private practice, Dr. Heinze completed a veterinary residency in small animal clinical nutrition and a master’s degree in nutritional biology at the University of California – Davis.

Complementing her clinical and teaching responsibilities at Cummings School and Foster Hospital for Small Animals, Dr. Heinze is proud to be the lead Principal Investigator on an important diet study of dogs undergoing chemotherapy. The study: ‘Investigation of a novel diet for support dogs undergoing chemotherapy for mast cell tumors or multicentric lymphoma’ is currently enrolling dogs diagnosed with mast cell tumors or lymphoma that have not been previously treated for their cancer.  (

Eight weeks in duration, the diet program is initiated at the same time as the administration of chemotherapy. This study is a great opportunity for dogs diagnosed with cancer and has the potential to reduce the gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy. While it does not cover the cost of chemotherapy, pet owners receive an 8-week supply of high quality food, complimentary blood work and several no-cost clinical visits with Foster Hospital oncology department, as well as a monetary credit for successful completion of the trial.

“It’s the team atmosphere, sharing of knowledge, and desire to gather more knowledge that make Cummings School such a great place to work,” says Dr. Heinze, who recently celebrated her four-year work anniversary. With only 70 board-certified veterinary nutritionists in the country, Dr. Heinze and two of her fellow board-certified colleagues provide unique teaching and services that more than half of the veterinary schools in the country are not staffed to provide.

Outside of work, she stays very active. Calling herself a “health nut,” she loves to cook, which dovetails nicely with her career as an animal nutritionist. She also loves to garden, hike, camp, walk and jog and enjoys her two cockatiels, as well as schooling lower level dressage with her older Thoroughbred gelding.

Meet the Clinical Studies Lab Technicians

This entry is article 6 of 9 in the February 2015 issue

Diane Welsh 
Clinical Trial Technician 

Welsh, Diane SM (2)Diane Welsh, is a certified veterinary technician with more than 30 years of experience in the field of animal medicine. After receiving her degree in veterinary technology from Becker Junior College, she spent 16 years working in private practice at Littleton Animal Hospital and
Abbott Animal Hospital prior to joining the team at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University 17 years ago. She has held numerous roles during her tenure at Cummings School, from treating critically ill and emergency patients in the ICU and ER, performing hemodialysis treatments on renal service patients to being responsible for the Tufts University blood bank. Now as a clinical trial technician for the Department of Clinical Sciences, she spends more than half of her time focused on clinical studies in the Regenerative Medicine Laboratory and her remaining time with other clinical department studies. Outside of work, she enjoys sewing, reading and spending time with her family. While she has owned golden retrievers, cats and a rabbit over the years, she is currently on a break from pet ownership. In the meantime, she enjoys visiting her two “grandpigs,” (guinea pigs) that her son has at home.

Sarah Cass
Senior Research Technician

Cass, Sarah IDSarah Cass is no stranger to animal medicine, starting her work in small animal hospitals during her high school years. She went on to pursue her passion to care for animals, receiving an associate’s degree in veterinary technology, and subsequently a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from Becker College in 2000. Since then her experience has included working as a technician in emergency practice, conducting genetic research and most recently joining the Department of Clinical Sciences at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in June 2014. As a senior research technician, Sarah is involved in all aspects of clinical research from laboratory work, hands-on activities with the animals and client owners, managing laboratory equipment to budgeting. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors, whether it’s skiing, hiking, kayaking, biking, or gardening, as well as spending time with her seven-year-old daughter. Sarah doesn’t leave her interactions with animals behind at work where at home she cares for her family’s 13-year-old black lab, three-year-old boxer mix, two cats, a guinea pig, and some fish. You will soon find Sarah on the road meeting with referring veterinarians with the hope of generating interest and enrollment in the exciting and innovative clinical research efforts underway at Cummings School.

The Effect of Progesterone on Thromboelastography

This entry is article 5 of 9 in the February 2015 issue

The purpose of the study is to determine if increasing levels of the hormone progesterone found in the serum (bloodstream) of female dogs during their reproductive cycle leads to hypercoagulability (excessive blood clotting).

For more information regarding this study please visit:

Treatment of canine atopic dermatitis with intravenously administered autologous bone marrow

This entry is article 4 of 9 in the February 2015 issue

Atopic dermatitis (AD) also known as atopic eczema, affects approximately 10% of dogs worldwide and is likely the most prevalent canine skin diseases requiring medical intervention. Current treatment options for dogs afflicted with this condition include antihistamines, corticosteroids, cyclosporine A, oclacitinib, and allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT) administered subcutaneously or sublingually, as well as adjunctive treatments such as topical and systemic antimicrobial therapy. It is difficult to avoid allergens in many cases.. Certain issues may arise with treatment options due to possible unreliable,therapeutic methods that may have adverse reactions, or come with significant financial burden. There is a great need for finding a novel, safe, and effective treatment for the management of canine atopic dermatitis.

Multipotent mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been extensively evaluated in human medicine for their clinical applications in the repair of damaged tissues and in the treatment of chronic, degenerative inflammatory diseases because of their diverse wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties.

Our primary goal is to investigate the effectiveness of autologous Bone Marrow MSCs (BM-MSCs) in easing the clinical signs associated with canine AD and the safety of BM-MSCs given that no prior safety study has been performed at our hospital. Our secondary goal is to investigate the feasibility of this protocol for future applications in larger scale randomized controlled double-blinded clinical trials.

For more information regarding this study, please visit:

Vitamin D Status in Cats with Primary Hepatobiliary Disease

This entry is article 3 of 9 in the February 2015 issue

The liver performs an essential role in the absorption of dietary vitamin D and synthesis of the active form of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is a known problem in people with liver disease and these patients routinely receive supplementation. Vitamin D deficiency has not been documented in cats with liver disease. Our goal is to determine if cats with primary liver disease have low levels of vitamin D. If they do this finding could lead to the development of clinical guidelines for vitamin D supplementation.

For more information regarding this study please visit:

Investigation of a novel diet for support of dogs undergoing chemotherapy for mast cell tumors or multicentric lymphoma

This entry is article 2 of 9 in the February 2015 issue

Cancer is one of the most common conditions seen in older dogs and it is becoming more common for owners to opt to treat their pets with chemotherapy. Dogs undergoing chemotherapy may suffer from side effects of treatment such as vomiting, diarrhea, and reduced appetite. There are currently no commercial diets that are designed specifically to help support dogs with cancer undergoing chemotherapy by reducing the gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy.

The purpose of the study is to determine whether a specially formulated diet may reduce gastrointestinal side effects associated with chemotherapy and improve the quality of life of dogs undergoing chemotherapy

For more information regarding this study please visit:

Administration of Pimobendan to Cats with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

This entry is article 1 of 9 in the February 2015 issue

A common condition that occurs in a cat with CKD patients is heart disease. Giving cats with CKD high rates of intravenous fluid necessary to rid the body of kidney toxins puts these patients at risk for congestive heart failure (CHF). Anecdotally at Foster Hospital, we have observed an improvement in kidney toxin values, appetite and attitude in cats treated with pimobendan for their heart disease. We would like to assess pimobendan can be used safely in cats and if it will benefit cats in the later stages of CKD, IRIS stage 3 or 4. Further investigating our initial clinical observations with a larger study will help establish whether pimobendan could be a novel treatment for cats with CKD. . Benefits could include decreased hospitalization time, improved appetite, improved kidney function, and the ability to treat kidney disease while simultaneously protecting against CHF in patients with concurrent heart disease.

For more information regarding this study please visit:

Dental Drill

This entry is article 4 of 4 in the January 2015 issue

 Do you know what it takes to keep your dog’s teeth in the best shape?

Unfortunately, says Jean Joo, DVM, a veterinary dentist at Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University “a lot of the dogs we see, the owner doesn’t start brushing their teeth until something catastrophic has happened, perhaps the extraction of eight to 10 teeth. That’s when owners really get motivated.” Continue reading