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Treating Canine Lymphoma | Why you should check your dog for lumps

When it comes to looking after our pets, their overall health is number one. But did you know that one in four dogs are diagnosed with canine cancer?

According to the Vet Cancer Society, close to 50 percent of dogs over the age of 10 will develop some form of cancer, which has sparked a campaign to get more owners checking for unusual lumps on their dog’s body at home.

These lumps, commonly found around the jaw and ‘knees’ of dogs can be a sign of enlarged lymph nodes, which is likely a sign of a common and aggressive canine cancer known as lymphoma.

“Lymphoma is a cancer of one of the immune system cells,” says vet oncologist Dr Jessica Finlay from Perth Vet Specialists in Western Australia. 
“It is a body-wide disease affecting the lymph nodes or organs.”
There are many different types of lymphoma – at least 30 variations – with most being high grade, meaning it will rapidly progress without treatment.

“The classifications [of lymphoma] are based on biological behaviour,” says Dr Finlay.

 “The indolent types are slow to progress over months to years, whereas high grade types progress rapidly over weeks. It also depends on the type of lymphocytes (B cell and T cell) and anatomic location.”

Diagnosing lymphoma

Many dogs with lymphoma will develop enlarged lymph nodes and, at the time the lumps are detected, most of the dogs will otherwise seem completely normal and well. Some dogs however will show varied symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, or weight loss or symptoms that mimic conditions such as skin allergies. Sadly, at this stage, there is no known cure.
“Prognosis is variable depending on the type of lymphoma and the approach to treatment,” says Dr Finlay.
“Dogs with indolent lymphoma can enjoy years of disease control. The outcome for dogs with high grade lymphoma treated with chemotherapy is typically around 10 to 12 months, however 20 to 30 per cent of dogs will survive two years or more.”

To diagnose lymphoma, the vet usually takes a sample of the affected lymph node or organ to be analysed by a pathologist. If there are any enlarged lymph nodes, the vet may take a fine needle aspirate to look at the cells under the microscope. The tissue may also be taken by a biopsy. These samples are usually then stained to confirm which type of lymphoma is present – B cell or T cell.

“Newer tests that are available to assist with diagnosis include flow cytometry which can assist with a diagnosis of lymphoma and in certain instances assist with prognosis,” says Dr Kathleen O’Connell, specialist vet oncologist at the Animal Referral Hospital (ARH) Brisbane, QLD. 

“This test is performed like a fine needle aspirate with cells taken from a lymph node or organ and ran through a machine. 

Another test is called PARR [PCR for Antigen Receptor Rearrangements] which is looking at whether the cells are clones of each other which indicates lymphoma rather than reactive lymphocytes.”

Dr Finlay says there’s been a massive advancement in the understanding of lymphoma in recent years.

“In particular, genetic and molecular aberrations, understanding of the tumour microenvironment and the immune landscape,” she says. “This has refined classifications and led to the development of advanced diagnostic tests and revolutionary treatments.”

New treatments for lymphoma

One of these revolutionary treatments is currently being evaluated by biotech company, PharmAust.

Its newly formulated anti-cancer drug Monepantel (MPL) is being trialled for dogs with untreated B cell lymphoma and has already seen success in Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials.

“During Phase 2a and Phase 2b trials, Monepantel demonstrated effective anti-cancer activity and minimal side effects, which supports continued development into Phase 3 registration trials,” says Dr Kim Agnew, Principal Investigator of the trial. “Survival expectations are anticipated to align to a range of single active chemotherapy programs in dogs.”

Twenty-seven pet dogs have now been treated using MPL monotherapy on the trial. Of the 16 pet dogs with optimum blood levels, 13 have achieved stable target lesions and nine of these 16 dogs have achieved stable disease by RECIST (Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours).

One canine that took part in the trial, Ryley the Border Collie, achieved so much success, she lived for an incredible 191 days after the start of her MPL treatment.

“Our main aim was to hopefully extend her life, but more importantly, maintain her quality of life,” says Sharon, Ryley’s owner. “We are grateful for the extra time we could spend with her.”

Ruby Flux & Dr Kathleen O’Connell
Ruby Flux, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is currently on Monepantel treatment, and the outcome is looking promising.

“Ruby commenced on the trial in July 2022 with a diagnosis of large cell B cell multicentric lymphoma and she has been going well since,” says Dr O’Connell. 

“She has started another medication, prednisolone, in August when her disease started to progress, but she is currently very well and loving life.”

Participating in the clinical trial

The Monepantel trial involves consultations / treatments at the nearest trial centre, which currently includes five sites in Australia, one site in New Zealand and one site in the United States.

Perth Vet Specialists and Animal Referral Hospital Brisbane are two of the sites in Australia with Dr Findlay and Dr O’Connell heading the trials there.

To participate in the Phase 2b trial, dogs can have any stage of lymphoma but must be feeling generally well. Ultimately, the patient will only be given the treatment if they have B cell lymphoma but immunophenotyping (analysis of whether the cancer is a B cell or T cell type) is covered as part of the initial screening.

The dog entry criteria for the new clinical trial program are:

✔️ Any stage of lymphoma (based on physical exam)
✔️ Substage A (feeling well)
✔️ Dogs of any sex and at least one year of age
✔️ Immunophenotype can be pending but must be submitted, and needs to be B-cell to confirm enrolment
✔️ No previous treatment in the previous 8 weeks, including corticosteroids (prednisolone)
✔️ No other significant concurrent medical problems
✔️ Good quality of life
✔️ The dog should weigh more than 11kg

Owners will have to transport their dogs to their respective centre and pay the cost for initial consultation for diagnosis. Once the pet is diagnosed with lymphoma, PharmAust will cover all clinical trial costs, including travel expenses to and from the trial centre as well as post-trial maintenance treatment if both pet owners and vets consider this might be beneficial.

The tablets will be administered at home and owners will be asked to keep a simple logbook during the trial period.

For more information on the Monepantel anti-cancer drug trial, please visit

How to check your dog for lumps

You should check your dog’s entire body for unusual lumps and bumps on a regular basis

They may be a sign of canine cancer. Here’s how you can safely check their body in four easy steps:
  • Always praise your dog for being tolerant of being touched all over and offer rewards (food or praise) throughout the process.
  • Using gentle pressure, start with feeling your dog’s head and run your hands around their face, paying particular attention to under the jaw and around the neck.
  • Then, move your hands down the chest, over the arms and feel under the armpits. Run your hands across the underside of the tummy paying particular attention to the mammary area in female dogs.
  • While your dog is standing, look under the tail and check around the back passage, then run your hands down each of their legs.

Make sure to visit your vet if you do find any unusual or new lumps and ulcerations.

Written by Kylie Baracz, October 2022 for Australian Dog Lover (all rights reserved).

About Kylie Baracz

Photo: Felicity Harris Photography

Kylie is a freelance writer, editor and content creator with over 11 years’ experience in the media industry. 

As a former Dogs Life magazine editor, Kylie has a passion for writing for the pet industry and has worked with many pet brands including APDTA and PPGA, PharmAust and Best Pets Gift Card

You can find her on Instagram @contentbykylie or at 

About PharmAust

PAA is a clinical-stage company developing targeted cancer therapeutics for both humans and animals. The company specialises in repurposing marketed drugs lowering the risks and costs of development.

PAA’s lead drug candidate is monepantel (MPL), a novel, potent and safe inhibitor of the mTOR pathway - a key driver of cancer. PAA is uniquely positioned to commercialise MPL for treatment of human and veterinary cancers as it advances the drug into Phase 2b clinical trial. 

To discover more, visit

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