Jasper was born in Langley and his owners are looking for litter mates to obtain stem cells.

Family looks for litter mates to help Langley-born labradoodle fight cancer

A Coquitlam family is hoping to find dogs related to their labradoodle.

by Dana Gee, Special to the Langley Advance

If you have a labradoodle dog that was born on July 9, 2006, in Langley you might be able to help save another labradoodle’s life.

Jasper has T-cell lymphoma and stem cells from one of his siblings could keep him running and loving his family, the Saitos, for a few more years.

Jasper was one of 12 puppies born to parents Bella and Romeo at breeder Christine Filipczyk’s farm in Langley nearly 10 years ago. Romeo and Bella apparently bred again, but unfortunately a fire destroyed all the breeder’s records.

To help try to find Jasper’s relatives Jasper’s people took to social media asking for help. The Coquitlam family will pay all costs and are offering cash incentives for people with related dogs to come forward.

“Most people are sending prayers and wishes and offering to help where they could,” said Andrea Saito, who says thousands of people have visited Jasper’s FB page and Instagram.

So far three siblings have been tested but none was a match.

Jasper’s cancer journey began back in January when Saito discovered lumps on his neck. Those lumps turned out to be swollen lymph nodes. Jasper had cancer and the prescribed course of action was chemotherapy.

But that does not translate into a cure; it just buys a bit more time. In Jasper’s case he could get about six months more of life.

Not satisfied with that, the Saitos did some research and discovered that four veterinary clinics south of the border have had success curing lymphoma in dogs using stem cell therapy. The vanguard in that therapy was the nearby Bellingham (Wash.) Vet Clinic.

Jasper has been treated there for the past couple of months. He is undergoing chemo in preparation for stem cell therapy. And, yes, he is starting to lose his hair.

While Bellingham Vet Clinic is the first clinic to do this work, Jasper’s vet, Dr. Edmund Sullivan, said they simply built on work that had already been done by researchers just down the road.

“What we did here is we adapted the therapy from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle,” said Sullivan, who has been a vet for 30 years. “Fred Hutchinson originally developed bone marrow transplant techniques for humans, but what a lot of people don’t know was that information that they generated in the beginning was with dogs.”

Sullivan found out about FHCRC when a client asked him if there was anything beyond chemo for his cancer-stricken dog.

“My patients are dogs. It’s my duty, really, to find treatments for them,” said Sullivan.

What Sullivan found were reports about dogs being treated for bone marrow cancer in the 1970s and ’80s. The reports had all been co-authored by Rainer Storb, a doctor at the FHCRC. Sullivan contacted Storb.

“He said to me: ‘I’ve been waiting 20 years for this phone call. We’ve known how to treat dogs with lymphoma for many years, but no one asked,’” said Sullivan, who was invited to Seattle by Storb to learn the techniques.

Now, 12 years later, Sullivan is hoping that Jasper’s match can be found and he’ll get another few years of life.

“He’s in pretty good shape. If he didn’t have lymphoma you would think he was a younger dog,” said Sullivan. “He’s 10 with a disease that could be treated and then perhaps he could make it to 15. I know he’s older, but it is the same as if it was your grandmother or grandfather. You would probably want to treat them if it was reasonable.”

If all goes ahead, the treatment will ring in anywhere between US$10,000-$15,000 — a hefty price tag, but one that Dr. Stanley Coren, professor emeritus in UBC’s psychology department and well-known dog expert, says we will pay if we can, because dogs “are part of the family.”

“We treat them very much like children,” said Coren, author of the best-selling The Intelligence of Dogs. “The average dog has a mind equivalent to a human two- to three-year-old and we recognize that and we talk to our dogs the same way we would talk to young kids.”

“I know he’s a dog, but at the same time he’s our dog and if we choose to do this for him that’s our business,” said Saito who sons Joshua, 20, and Colton, 16, have grown up with Jasper.

“I’m not asking people for money, I’m just asking them if they have a dog and they want to help save Jasper. I would have never even done this if I didn’t need to find his siblings.

“He’s just part of us, so giving up wasn’t really an option,” said Saito. “Luckily, right now we can do what we can for him.”

PHOTO:Andrea Saito with her 10-year-old labradoodle Jasper, who has T-cell lymphoma. (Mark van Manen/PNG)

For more from the Vancouver Sun, click HERE.

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