Foster Spotlight – Leslie Anderson

Anderson, Leslie IDWe sat down and asked Leslie some questions about her work as a client liaison. As a client liaison, Leslie triages calls, fields inquiries from pet owners and referring veterinarians, schedules appointments and keeps the lines of communication open with all involved in the care of the pets and pet owners she serves. She also provides clinical support for the Orthopedic and Chief surgery service. Continue reading

Anesthesia Team the “Unsung Heroes” for this Older Pet


Herman, a 16-1/2-year old dachshund, presented to Foster Hospital by his owner Susan Buttrick when he was not able to move his hind legs. While this situation had happened before, the most recent incident did not respond to medication that had previously been effective. Herman had a history of a heart murmur and in recent years, Susan was afraid to have him undergo the sedation required for even a teeth cleaning. “My biggest fear was that Herman wouldn’t make it through any surgery that might have been required,” recalls Susan. Continue reading

Pets Benefit with Access to State-of-the-Art Research Studies


Bolt, an eight-year-old German Shepherd was diagnosed in Fall 2012 with perianal fistulas (a painful opening in the skin surrounding the anus). Anal fistulas are very common in this breed of dogs and can be extremely painful.

Leading up to Bolt’s development of these fistulas, owner Paul Higgins describes Bolt’s long history of recurrent skin infections and was referred by his primary care veterinarian at Eastham Vets to a dermatology specialist at VCA in Weymouth. Dr. Loren Cohen was successful in managing Bolt’s skin conditions with cyclosporine; however, a couple years later he developed anal fistulas, which were not resolving. Dr. Cohen had heard about a clinical trial that was being conducted at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University to treat anal fistulas and suggested that owner Paul Higgins meet faculty member and principal investigator, Lluis Ferrer DVM, PhD, DECVD. Cummings School is a committed part of the One Health initiative that links the human, animal, environmental and research worlds together. “One of our missions is to offer trials that are on the cutting edge of medical advancement, for both animals and humans,” says Dr. Ferrer.

Clinical Trial

The study that Bolt participated in employed the injection of human mesenchymal stem cells into and around the fistulas. The goals of this treatment are to diminish or heal the existing fistulas and either reduce or eliminate the use of certain immunomodulatory agents(a class of drugs) to control the fistulas. Side effects from these drugs, specifically GI upset, made this a less than ideal form of treatment for pets with anal fistulas.

In April 2014 Paul Higgins participated in a brief interview with Cummings School to determine if Bolt would be eligible for the study. Shortly thereafter, Bolt met Dr. Ferrer in North Grafton for an assessment, where it was confirmed that he met all the criteria to participate. Paul joked that he was so proud to have his baby get accepted to Cummings. “It was not without apprehension. We went online and while the information was very technical, I got the general gist of it. When you hear they are going to inject human stem cells into your pet, and anytime you have to subject your pet to sedation, there are worries,” said Paul.


Less than two weeks later, Paul and his wife Christina brought Bolt for the procedure “We were a bit tentative, but from the minute we got there they put our fears at ease. Tufts’ reputation is top notch. They explained everything and we knew immediately we were doing the right thing,” continued Paul.

Dr. Lluis Ferrer administered the stem cells which were supplied as part of a partnership with Advanced Cell Technology of Marlborough, Massachusetts.

Paul speaks graciously about his ongoing communication with Diane Welsh Cummings School’s clinical trial coordinator, who called as soon as Bolt woke up to let them know all had gone well, and also recalled how accommodating they were in scheduling Bolt’s post-procedure appointments.


The clinical trial treatment proved to be successful in healing Bolt’s fistulas. Bolt was monitored for six months, at one week, and monthly post injection. At six months post injection, the fistulas had dissipated and not returned. While the Higgins’ are pleased to have participated in this cutting edge treatment approach, Bolt is not alone with the positive outcome and relief he experienced. The clinical trial was comprised of six patients – 4 German Shepherds, 1 Australian Shepherd and 1 Australian Terrier. All have had their fistulas resolve and the medication decreased. While Bolt is continuing to receive the cyclosporine, it is being used to treat his skin allergies. Dr. Ferrer and his team are very pleased with these positive results and the potential for translation to human medicine. “This study has shown not only to be beneficial to our canine patients, but this research also has implications in helping human patients with Crohn’s disease with similar manifestations and it also has added valuable knowledge about the therapeutic use of stem cells, explains Dr. Ferrer.

Effects of anti-angiogenic therapy on mouth cancer (oral squamous cell carcinoma) in cats

The cancer that most commonly affects the mouth of cats is called oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). This cancer is common and responds poorly to treatment. The average life expectancy for cats diagnosed with this cancer is approximately six-months. Cats may exhibit a number of problems as a result of OSCC, including a swelling in the head/throat, lack of appetite, difficulty eating or swallowing, decreased grooming behavior, excessive salivation, foul odor of breath, change in voice or difficulty vocalizing. The purpose of this study is to determine if a drug called “Anginex” would provide a safe and effective means of treating OSCC in cats. Anginex is a small protein that interferes with the ability of a tumor to make and maintain its blood supply, a process known as angiogenesis. Cancer drugs that target the blood supply of a tumor are called “anti-angiogenic” agents. Because tumors need a blood supply to grow beyond a microscopic size, inhibiting angiogenesis prevents tumors from growing and can cause tumors to shrink. Anginex has been used in mice experimentally. We have also performed a pilot study in cats with OSCC. The current clinical study in which we are enrolling cats investigates Amginex’s effectiveness on the tumor and its blood vessels and oxygen levels.

For more information regarding this study please visit:

Evaluating hypercoagulability (abnormal blood coagulation that increases the risk of blood clots) in dogs with brachycephalic airway syndrome: similarity to human obstructive sleep apnea.

The primary purpose of this study is to determine whether English Bulldogs are more hypercoagulable (an abnormality of the clotting process that increases the risk of developing blood clots within blood vessels) than non-brachycephalic dogs by running a series of coagulation tests. We are also interested in determining if C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation and cardiovascular risk, is elevated in English Bulldogs as it is in humans with obstructive sleep apnea.

For more information regarding this study please visit:

Congenital Heart Defects Study: Investigating Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) in Pembroke Welsh Corgis

Congenital heart defects occur in a variety of dog breeds, with the most common being the patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). Although this is a correctable disorder in most puppies, it requires surgery or a catheter-based procedure which can be expensive and is not without risk. Therefore, determining the genetic cause of PDA in dogs would be highly desirable so that dogs could be screened and the genetic mutation could be eventually bred out of the canine population. Corgis are a breed at increased risk for PDA’s so the goal of this study is to evaluate Corgis with and without PDA’s in order to identify the gene mutation for this heart problem.

For more information regarding this study please visit:

The evaluation of a palliative radiation therapy in conjunction with an oral anticancer agent (Palladia®) for the treatment of measurable cancerous tumors in dogs

Carcinomas are a common form of malignancy in both dogs and humans. As a category of cancer, carcinomas tend to be both locally invasive as well as carry a high risk of local metastasis (spread to nearby tissues). In cases diagnosed in early stages, long term survival is often possible with a combination of surgery, definitive radiation therapy, and conventional chemotherapy but such combined therapy is often cost prohibitive for many clients. Furthermore, surgery may not be an option for some patients. Therapy is often limited to palliative (relief of pain and symptoms)radiation therapy (PRT) +/- conventional chemotherapy. The purpose of this study is to evaluate therapy with toceranib (Palladia®), an oral anticancer agent, in combination with palliative radiation therapy for tolerability, toxicity and efficacy in a population of dogs with measurable carcinomas.

For more information regarding this study please visit:

Clinical Studies Provide Hope for Pet Owners

Many of you may be familiar with clinical trials used in treating human disease. In a similar way, veterinary clinical studies are being conducted to assess promising new treatments, drugs or procedures in animals. As in human health, participation in veterinary clinical trials is on a volunteer basis.

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, a newly developed medical device or 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 your pet may experience, by participating in a clinical study your pet is ultimately contributing to the understanding of disease and the advancement of medicine, benefiting pets in years to come. You may be wondering how safe it is to participate in a clinical study. Rest assure that clinical studies are only made available after initial studies have determined that the treatment is safe and has potential to be more effective than current mechanisms of treatment.

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine offers numerous clinical studies for clients of the Foster Hospital for Small Animals, Hospital for Large Animals, Tufts Ambulatory Service and Tufts VETS. 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 care team at Foster Hospital can provide you with additional information on enrolling in any of our current clinical studies or feel free to ask your primary veterinarian if there may be a study appropriate for your pet’s disease or condition. You may also find details on clinical trials underway at: