31 January 2024

A 12-year-old Labrador has been hailed a “miracle” success story by the specialist vet who treated him for an inoperable mouth cancer.

Chiara Penzo, a renowned RCVS and European Specialist in Veterinary Oncology here at Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service in Solihull, said beloved family pet Bow had responded brilliantly to pioneering electrochemotherapy treatment.  

an image of Bow, a black labrador sitting on the floor of a vet consulting room between a vet and a nurse. To the left is a white woman with blonde hair and glasses, to the right is a white woman with brown hair and glasses, both are wearing scrubs and smiling at the camera.

Chiara has spoken out ahead of World Cancer Day on February 4 to highlight Bow’s incredible survival story and said new advances in Cancer Care can help other pets to beat the disease, too.

Chiara explained: “Remarkably, Bow is now celebrating two years of being cancer free after receiving electrochemotherapy treatment for a melanoma in his mouth.

“It’s a massive achievement and a miracle we have been able to achieve such a positive outcome, especially in a 12-year-old dog.

“His cancer was inoperable but the rapidly-evolving electrochemotherapy treatment is a new and encouraging way of tackling such cases.

“The beauty of electrochemotherapy is that it allows clever and precise anatomical targeting of the specific site of the cancer. 

“It is given in two stages. First, the patient is given a mild dose of intravenous chemotherapy in the normal way and then, using a special probe, a very precise electrical charge is given to the area on or around the tumour. 

“The charge temporarily opens up tiny holes in the cells, big enough to allow the drug to enter, which then close again in microseconds.

“This approach means the drug will only attack cancerous cells, unlike normal chemotherapy, which also kills healthy cells so it’s a very effective way of treating the cancer without harming the patient indiscriminately.” 

Bow’s owner, Kathryn Derby, from Rugby, Warwickshire, admitted she feared the worst when he was first diagnosed but said Chiara and our team here at Willows had been fantastic.

Kathryn said: “I was devastated at first. I went to the vets expecting it to be a simple issue and it wasn’t. It was extremely serious.

“I was totally shocked and felt awful that the melanoma in his mouth had got so big without me realising because his tongue had been covering it. 

“But when we went to Willows, Chiara spoke to us in depth about the condition and the options we had for treatment, including electrochemotherapy. 

“The results have been fantastic. It’s two years now and the melanoma has not reappeared.

“Bow is happy and doing so well. Everyone is amazed by how well he is, when it had initially looked so bad. 

“The care we have all received has been amazing from Chiara and the Willows team, I cannot fault a single thing. 

“They were honest, so considerate throughout, provided us with information and answered any questions we had regarding the various treatments.

“The care Bow received both at the hospital and between treatments was first class and I would definitely recommend them – and already have done so.”

An image of Bow, a black labrador, running in the water along a pebble beach. The sky is cloudy and there are hills in the background across the water