The Last Of The Big Guns…

Cody and I went to see Dr Butzer this morning at 9am. I am exhausted today and it was pretty difficult to get up this morning but we made it. I think I am fighting a cold. Anyway, we got there and got into a room and in comes Erin to take Cody’s CBC. We are doing his last round of Doxyrubicin today since we can… the Asparaginase did not work well at all and his glands are so big and clearly making him uncomfortable that I feel ok about doing this. I get a copy of the CBC and he brings in the bag of very illegal looking chinese herbs that we ordered a refill of.

His CBC comes back good, his whites are 5.73, reds are 5.53 and his platelets are 236. Doc comes in and feels Cody’s body, feels how big the neck glands are and agrees it is good to do the last round of this drug. Might as well. Then he tells me about this new treatment a patient gave him and article about.

The company is called Morphogenesis and they are in Tampa. The treatment is ImmuneFX and the website explains it like this:

The most common cancer treatments include radiation and drug treatments, many of which are toxic and harmful to normal cells. In addition, tumor cells may simply develop resistance to chemical and radiation treatments, leading to recurrence of chemo- and/or radio-resistant cancers. The immune system, the body’s natural defense system against disease, recognizes malignant and normal cells as essentially the same in persons with cancer. Cancer vaccines are designed to ‘boost’ the immune system so these abnormal cells are recognized as such and eliminated.


Pre-clinical studies have indicated that ImmuneFx acts by providing a priming action for the immune system. The priming antigen is supplied to the patient’s own tumor cells, allogeneic cell lines or in vivo in the form of a DNA plasmid. The cellular machinery expresses the antigen on the surface of the tumor cells. Because the antigen is expressed on the surface of the tumor cells, it alerts the body’s scavenging cells (antigen presenting cells) to the fact that these cells are now foreign. Once this priming action has initiated the immune response, the antigen presenting cells attack the tumor cells, digest them and display all the antigens, those specific to the tumor cells as well as the foreign antigen, to T cells which then initiate a response specific to all the antigens. In this way, a strong immune response is directed to the tumor in a way that was not possible before.


The ImmuneFx cancer vaccine capitalizes on the ability of bacterial antigens to evoke a strong immune response and the ability of the patient’s immune system to respond to the presence of the bacterial antigens by directing the force of the immune system specifically to the tumor. In addition to the obvious human medical markets, Morphogenesis is also poised to enter the veterinary cancer market for companion animals. Preclinical studies have shown that the vaccine can be produced for and safely delivered to dogs with naturally occurring lymphoma. In all instances, the ImmuneFx vaccine was well tolerated, produced strong humoral, cellular and clinically relevant anti-tumor responses and elicited no toxic side effects.


Phase I human and canine trials for the ImmuneFx vaccine are expected to begin later this year.

I told Dr Butzer that I would be interested to know more about the clinical trials especially since we are at the end of our rope here with Cody’s treatment. He has a call into them and expects to hear back tomorrow but he says he will check into it for me.Apparently Cody will have to have a surgery to remove a lymph node so that we can send it to this company and they make a vaccine for his particular cancer. I asked about costs and Butzer does not really know, possibly about $1000 but he is not sure. I asked if that covers the surgery too and he is checking. I do like the idea that they will formulate something specifically for Cody and his cancer rather than a generic one size fits all type of treatment. It gives me some hope where there was little prior.

Then we had a long discussion about how we both hate radiation and chemo and love the idea that this treatment allows the body to attack and kill the cancer itself. We discussed how new science is amazing and stem cell research does this exact same type of theoretical treatment, allowing the body the tools to heal. Clearly  the old school methods are not working. Chemo only allows more time… more sick time and does not really offer a cure. It is toxic and harmful and has so many side effects that sometimes it is the actual treatment that kills and not the cancer itself. So I Am all for trying this new method. Sign me up!

Again I am so thankful and lucky to have a Vet who is open to this kind of stuff.

So we get all set up for Cody’s chemo and he gets an IV started. I sit down on the floor with him and Erin is all excited because we have a Safari bandage… looks like tiger stripes! ROAR! We do the drip for about 30 minutes and then Doc comes in to give Cody the works… the usual cocktail of Pepcid, Regulan, Benedryl, Dexamethasone, the Doxyrubicin and Vitamins. He goes through all the shots and is ready for the Doxy, the big gun… starts to put it slowly through the IV and Cody reacts again. CLEARLY it not only burns, but it must give him some sort of rush… head rush, nausea since he is salivating like crazy, and not to mention the fluids make him cold. He starts to shake, and then gets restless, his eyes look big and tries to stand up. It is awful to watch. I am sitting on the floor next to him telling him to lay down, he shuffles to his feet, steps to my side, sits down basically on top of me but next to me and leans into my body. So I put my arms around him and hug him and Butzer says “I think he just wanted a hug”.

Me too. So he slinks down next to me and lays on my lap and we finish the shot, I have my arms around him and Doc shoots the vitamins into the IV bag instead of into his arm. And then he leaves. Cody is still shaking so I lay on top of him covering his body with mine… and we finish the IV. I am blowing hot air into his neck to try to warm him up a bit and every time I do he closes his eyes and leans into me. Poor gut. I am feeling so guilty about doing this to him, but if we can just get through this last round he will have at least a good month tumor free.


Finally this damn IV is done. I think we both have to pee badly, but at least I did not have an entire bag of fluids making me uncomfortable. My boy is a real trooper. Erin comes back in to remove the IV and I notice his injection site is very bloody today. She tells me to clean it at home with peroxide when I take his bandage off. So we are all done and we check out. Another $372.10 towards the chemo, thankfully I finished a painting this week that pretty much covers that cost.

Now we are home and he is pretty restless… panting and pacing. I gave him some treats and hopefully he will settle down and take a nap this afternoon. And now it is wait and see…

I am very interested in this ImmuneFX treatment so hopefully something will come of that. A small glimmer. I like glimmers!

On another note, any of you dog lovers out there beware – there is a salmonella recall on holistic dog foods and treats, reaffirming why I make Cody’s food for him:


~ by Michelle Sammartino-Zeto on May 8, 2012.

2 Responses to “The Last Of The Big Guns…”

  1. Praying for Cody with all I’ve got, my labby Katie is also on chemo for lymphoma. She is not nearly as sick with it as your baby but he could happen at any time. Keeping you in my thoughts.

  2. Cody, Michelle:

    Hugs and kisses and doggie smiles and waggy tails from Canada. We’re rootin’ for both of you and you are often in our thoughts.

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