Canine Melanoma Vaccine DNA

Merial's Canine Melanoma Vaccine DNA treats dogs with oral canine melanoma. The ONCEPT vaccine received approval from the Department of Agriculture in 2010 and is proving effective at extending the life expectancy of dogs with this deadly form of cancer. The ONCEPT vaccine is only approved as a treatment for now. It is only administered to dogs with stage two or three cancer. Dogs without cancer cannot receive the vaccine as a preventative therapy.

Canine Oral Melanoma and Life Expectancy

Canine oral melanoma is an aggressive form of cancer. The tumors are seen in the mouth and less frequently in the nail or pads of the feet. The cancer spreads rapidly to other areas of the body, including the kidneys, liver, lungs and lymph nodes.

Up until now, surgical removal of the tumors and radiation were the only treatment. Chemotherapy is ineffective on the tumors and most dogs die within six months of their diagnosis. With the ONCEPT vaccine, dogs survived beyond the end of the clinical studies.

Functions of the Canine Melanoma Vaccine

Standard vaccines work by building up an immune response to the specific disease. Cancer is a part of a dog's cellular structure, the cancerous cells are therefore accepted by the body, even though the cancer is deadly. The immune response doesn't try to fight the cancerous cells from growing. The ONCEPT Canine Melanoma Vaccine places a non-canine version of a gene called tyrosinase with a small amount of DNA. Because the DNA sample is non-canine, it is able to get in and create an immune response to the cancerous cells.

The ONCEPT vaccine is used in conjunction with surgical removal of the tumors and radiation therapy. Dogs with stage two or three cancer gain an increased life span as a result. Because many dogs survived beyond the initial studies, it's unknown just how much longer a dog will live. The estimations were up to 389 days if pet owners follow the schedule for the first four vaccinations.

Vaccination Schedule for the ONCEPT Vaccine for Canine Melanoma

The canine melanoma vaccine is given in four doses every other week initially. It is administered into the dog's thigh using a needle-free device. After the first four initial doses, boosters are given every six months for the remainder of the dog's life. With each dose of the ONCEPT melanoma vaccine, the body's immune response to the cancer strengthens.

Possible Side Effects

Many pet owners worry about safety of new vaccines. Currently, the only possible side effects for the ONCEPT vaccine include:

  • Bruising at the injection site

  • Low grade fever

Cost of the Canine Vaccination for Melanoma

The cost for the ONCEPT melanoma vaccination is determined by your veterinary oncologist and the number of vaccinations given. Prices tend to vary greatly, so be prepared to call around to check prices. Traveling to a different city can net you huge savings. Reports from different veterinary offices prove how much the prices differ. 2009 prices ranged from $450 in New York, $750 in San Francisco to more than $1,000 in Wisconsin.