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Brain Tumor Clinical Trials for Dogs

Brain scans

Molecular Combinatorial Therapy for Canine Malignant Gliomas

For more information about participating in this trial, including eligibility requirements and contact information, visit the Molecular Combinatorial Therapy page of the Clinical Research Office site.

This clinical trial is a collaboration between investigators at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and the Thomas K. Hearn Brain Tumor Research Center at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. The treatment administered in the trial involves a procedure termed Convection Enhanced Delivery (CED) of molecularly targeted cytotoxins, which are types of chemotherapeutic drugs, to the patient’s brain tumor. CED is performed by inserting specialized catheters directly into the tumor, and slowly infusing the drugs over a several hour period. The drug treatment is monitored continuously with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to allow the neurosurgeon to precisely track the drug delivery. The chemotherapeutic drugs used in this trial are unique in that they are designed to affect only cancerous cells, and not normal brain tissue. Earlier generations of these molecularly targeted cyotoxins have been used safely and effectively in dogs with gliomas.

This clinical trial has been approved by the:

  • VMCVM Veterinary Teaching Hospital Review Board
  • Virginia Tech Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (12-014 CVM).

The trial has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The costs of the CED treatment procedure and follow-up MRI scans for individual dogs will be covered by the trial.

For more details about this trial, please visit:

Clinical Trial Inclusion Criteria:

  • Dogs of any age, breed, or sex > 3 and < 45 kg body weight;
  • Clinical signs of mild to moderate neurologic dysfunction referable to the brain;
  • MRI evidence of a single telencephalic intra-axial mass lesion consistent with a glioma;
  • No clinical or other diagnostic evidence of other significant systemic disease.

We are happy to evaluate historical, clinical, and imaging findings to determine patient eligibility for this clinical trial. To expedite this process, please complete our Neurology Clinical Trial Consultation Form.

Please note that a current MRI confirming the likely diagnosis of a glioma is necessary for determining eligibility. After you or your veterinarian has completed the form above, please email a copy of your dog's MRI report to Mindy Quigley.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you suspect that your dog may have a brain tumor, you should arrange for an appointment with your local veterinarian. They will perform a complete neurological examination, which is the first and fundamental step in establishing a diagnosis in animals with brain disease. It is also a prerequisite for them to determine which additional diagnostic tests to recommend. However, advanced imaging studies of the brain, such as MRI, interpreted in conjunction with the neurological examination and other supporting tests, are usually necessary to best characterize diseases of the brain. If your local veterinarian cannot perform an MRI, they will often refer you to a veterinary neurologist that offers this service. The Neurology and Neurosurgery Service works on a referral only basis, which means that your local veterinarian must first evaluate your pet and arrange for an appointment to see one of our specialists. In order to be eligible for this specific clinical trial, your dog must have an MRI of the brain that demonstrates an abnormality consistent with a glioma.

Dogs typically start the trial on a Monday. On Tuesday, they will have a brain biopsy under anesthesia. We’ll then test the biopsy samples to confirm the tumor diagnosis. The drug infusion treatment typically takes place on Thursday or Friday of the same week. Most dogs are ready to go home Saturday or Sunday. The total time in the hospital is usually 5-6 days.

Once your dog goes home, you’ll need to bring him/her back to us approximately every 2-3 months for recheck MRIs. These are done on an outpatient basis, but they take most of the day.

No. Hospitalization and all study procedures are covered. If your dog enrolls and is disqualified or drops out, we will still cover the costs of the study procedures that have been performed up to the date of study withdrawal.

However, you will need to pay for the initial MRI to obtain a presumptive diagnosis. You will also be responsible for the cost of your travel, hotel, etc. and of your dog’s ongoing medications. If your dog has seizures and requires veterinary treatment for those seizures, the costs associated with the treatment of seizures are also your responsibility.

Dozens. The drug has been tested extensively, and has been shown to be effective in treating this type of tumor both in dogs and in humans. The study team has extensive experience with these techniques.

Earlier versions of this trial have been successful. You and your dog’s primary veterinarian can review a publication on the outcomes of the first cohort of dogs we treated here. We are now using a more advanced generation of the drug, which targets more tumor-specific markers.

The drug in this study has been designed to target certain protein markers that are expressed only in gliomas. The cytotoxin latches on to the glioma cells and spares the surrounding healthy brain tissue. The usual kinds of chemotherapy agents don’t work very well on brain tumors of this type. They have trouble crossing the blood-brain barrier. That’s why we use the catheter to deliver the drug directly to the tumor through a small hole in your dog’s skull.

Please keep us in the loop about any changes to your dog’s health or behavior, including any evidence of seizure activity. And please inform us prior to making any adjustments to medications.

All study procedures take place in the Small Animal area of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.


The address of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital is: 245 Duck Pond Drive Blacksburg, VA 24061 


When you enter the Veterinary College campus, you will pass a large Faculty/Staff Parking area on your left. The Small Animal client parking is on your left just after the Faculty/Staff lot.

Additional information

Come inside the small animal hospital entrance and check in at the front desk.

Typically no. Your dog’s first day will involve some preliminary exams and bloodwork, so no restrictions are required for the first day unless we give you other instructions.

Please bring your dog’s medications in their labeled containers. We can dispense whatever your dog needs from the pharmacy, but if you bring medications, it simplifies things.

You may also bring your dog’s food, if you wish. We are happy to provide food and may feed an easy-to-digest canned food on procedure and recovery days. However, if your dog has a food s/he really likes or has a sensitive tummy, please bring food. Note that we can’t feed raw food or pre-prepared homecooked diets in the hospital for infection control reasons.

Sadly, no. If your dog seems upset or worried, our experienced 24-7 ICU staff will be on hand to comfort him/her. Your dog will be recovering from procedures or undergoing procedures most days, so s/he’s likely to be sleeping or relaxing the majority of the time.

While you don’t need to stay locally, you’re very welcome to do so. You can find a listing of pet-friendly hotels here. Please confirm pet policies with the hotels directly. The new Residence Inn and Hyatt Place Blacksburg (not listed on the College website) both allow pets for a fee and are close to the hospital.

If you’re not able to stay in the area while your dog is hospitalized, you can request pictures or short videos of your dog. In addition to the study team and the ICU staff, there will be a vet student assigned as your dog’s main concierge/caretaker/buddy. That student will be in contact with you every day while your dog is hospitalized, and the lead investigator or other study personnel will be in contact with you most days as well.

Yes, if your dog is feeling up to it, you’ll be able to come on the days when s/he’s not having procedures (typically Wednesday and Thursday, and also Saturday if s/he needs an extra day to recover before going home). Your dog’s assigned student will work out the details with you. Visits are based on how your dog is doing and staff availability. Usually, your dog will also be able to go back to your accommodation with you on Monday of the initial appointment, if you’d like. If you take that option, your dog will need to be back at the hospital early Tuesday morning, around 7am, fasted. S/he can have water and a tiny amount of food if needed with morning medications. We’ll work out the exact schedule on a case-by-case basis, but that’s typically how things go.

It varies from animal to animal, but dogs can usually return to most normal activities within a matter of days. They will be allowed to go home as soon as they are clinically stable (i.e. eating and drinking well, eliminating normally, anesthesia has worn off, wound is healing). They should refrain from rough play and be supervised during playtime for about two weeks. You’ll want to keep monitoring your dog for seizures.

At discharge, your dog will have a large shaved patch on the top of his/her head and will have a head incision that’s a few inches long. You’ll need to keep the incision clean and dry until it heals (about 2-3 weeks) but no special wound care is required. There will also be shaved patches on the limbs where drugs and fluids were administered during the procedures. It usually takes 2-4 weeks for the head incision to heal and the fur to grow back.