Stella is a 6 year-old, spayed female, Airedale terrier who was first presented to VRCC Oncology in May of 2010 with a diagnosis of a high grade cutaneous melanoma. The blueberry-sized tumor had been removed from her right ear, but with narrow surgical margins. 57% of patients with malignant cutaneous melanoma will have disease spread and pass away in the first year when surgery is the only treatment. Because of that statistic, Dr. Elmslie recommended for Stella to undergo another surgery to get wider surgical margins, and follow up with treatment with the Merial melanoma vaccine, to stimulate her immune system to prevent spread (metastasis) of the melanoma.
Chest x-rays were done and there was no evidence of disease spread. Stella had surgery and started treatment with the melanoma vaccine at the end of May 2010. Stella was treated with the melanoma vaccine every 2 weeks for the first 2 months. She started her booster vaccines in January 2011, which were given every 6 months for 2 years . Chest x-rays were monitored every 6 months as well and were consistently normal. She completed treatment with the melanoma vaccines in June 2012. Stella has been doing great, other than some allergies that are managed by our Dermatology department.
We have been monitoring Stella every 6-12 months since, and she continues to do fabulous at home. Physical exams have confirmed that she remains in complete remission with no evidence of recurrence of the tumor on her ear. Her chest x-rays have also been normal, free of spread of the cancer. Stella is due back here late this year/early next year for her next follow up. Stella’s mom shares her story:
“Learning Stella had melanoma was shocking. She was just a puppy and so full of life when she was diagnosed. At the time, Stella was a new addition to our family and we didn’t want to lose her so young. We knew traditional chemotherapy could drastically shorten Stella’s life and we were searching for a miracle when Dr. Elmslie suggested she was a strong candidate for melanoma vaccine (post surgery). Quality of life is very important to us and having Stella be able to enjoy life while undergoing cancer therapy was a must. She handled the injections well and even looked forward to seeing Dr. Elmslie and all of the wonderful Oncology staff at the VRCC.
Stella is our furry daughter and she means the world to us. She has seen us through some of the darkest days and we want the best for her. To say she is our best friend, just doesn’t seem to have enough weight. Stella is a member of our family, our glue and heaven-sent. We are thankful for her being, and are very grateful to Dr. Elmslie for giving us more time with our cancer free little girl!”