The future of cancer treatment might be integrative … but Dr. Kendra Pope uses oncology, acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition to fight dog cancer today.
Many oncologists are skeptical of integrative medicine, even though pet parents REALLY want to use it.
Kendra Pope is no skeptic. She’s a board-certified oncologist who practices in Red Bank, New Jersey. She uses oncology, but also acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition to fight dog cancer.
Her results speak for themselves. She joins us to discuss the treatments she uses in her own practice that she learned about AFTER her oncology training. Whether you’re interested in treatments they’re using in Europe (and not here), like mistletoe, how to feed your dog, or how to put together your team, this is a must-listen episode.
Welcome to the future of dog cancer treatment!
This episode is sponsored by the book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity.
Links & Resources Mentioned in Today’s Show:
Dr. Pope mentioned the following strategies:
Tui Na (acupressure)
College of Veterinary Medicine University of Florida: https://www.vetmed.ufl.edu/
American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine: https://acvim.org
Chi Institute: https://chiu.edu/
American Board of Veterinary Botanical Medicine: https://www.acvbm.org/
American Veterinary Medical Association: https://avma.com
Donnie Yance, master herbalist and nutritionist: https://www.donnieyance.com/
Subscribe to the email newsletter Dog Cancer News at DogCancerNews.com
To join the private Facebook group for readers of Dr. Dressler’s book “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide,” go to https://dogcancersupport.com
About Today’s Guest, Dr. Kendra Pope:
Dr. Pope began her academic career as a graduate of Virginia Tech in 2005 and went on to complete veterinary school at the University of Florida. While in veterinary school, she began her training in holistic therapies at the Chi Institute for Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and completed certifications in veterinary acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, veterinary food therapy, and Tui-na prior to graduation. Dr. Pope went on to complete a rotating internship in small animal medicine and surgery at the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, which was followed by a three-year residency in medical oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. She successfully obtained board certification in her specialty of oncology and became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2015.
Dr. Pope’s holistic training is an ongoing journey, with ongoing interests in herbal medicine, intravenous nutrient therapy, mistletoe therapy, as well as all innovative and novel integrative oncology approaches. Dr. Pope is preparing for certification as a Registered Herbalist, the highest accreditation offered in human herbal medicine. She has a strong interest in clinical research and making a difference in the field of veterinary integrative medicine through publications, lecturing, and education. Dr. Pope is currently involved in numerous clinical trials and is energized by collaboration and research with gifted colleagues. Dr. Pope serves as president of the American Board of Veterinary Botanical Medicine as well as on the Board of Directors for the World Association of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.
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This episode is sponsored by the best-selling animal health book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity by Dr. Demian Dressler and Dr. Susan Ettinger. Available everywhere fine books are sold.
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>> James Jacobson: [00:00:00] Hm. Our sponsor today is the most helpful book for anyone dealing with dog cancer. The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, written by Drs. Demian Dressler and coauthor Dr. Susan Ettinger, also known as Dr. Sue Cancer Vet. Together, they outline the Full Spectrum approach to dog cancer. It includes everything that has been shown to help your dog fight cancer, even strategies usually thought of as outside the box. That’s The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:00:33] I think that the more and more conventional research has done the more and more that they realize that chemotherapy is not going to cure and that these more targeted and tailored approaches are more humane, and are more likely to establish long-term control. I am absolutely a believer of chemo and I use it.
So it’s this isn’t me saying, I don’t think there’s a place for chemo. I just think that the amount of time that we’ve been using it compared to the amount of advancements we’ve had in treating diseases and curing diseases, has not been what it should be and does not compare.
>> Announcer: [00:01:13] Welcome to Dog Cancer Answers, where we help you help your dog with cancer.
Here’s your host, James Jacobson.
>> James Jacobson: [00:01:21] Hello friend, and thank you for joining us today. We are taking a Deep Dive today with Dr. Kendra Pope, an integrative oncologist who uses a whole arsenal of tools to fight cancer in dogs. Dr. Kendra Pope. Thanks for joining us today.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:01:38] Thank you.
>> James Jacobson: [00:01:39] We are excited to talk with oncologists who have a holistic bent and as you know, probably better than me, there’re not a lot of them out there.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:01:53] No, no. We have a nice little community where we all know one another.
>> James Jacobson: [00:01:59] How many do you reckon there are in the United States?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:02:02] Well, it depends, if you’re talking board certified oncologists, with holistic training, there are four of us. If you’re talking holistic veterinarians, there’s many of them.
>> James Jacobson: [00:02:13] Sure. But I mean, in terms of, and for our listeners, this is the distinction. You are a boarded, ACVIM, accredited member or colleague of the American Council of Veterinary Internal Medicine, parentheses oncology, as well as a holistic vet.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:02:32] Yep.
>> James Jacobson: [00:02:33] And so that’s that sort of double edge, really sharp knife that you have perfected.
And so how many of those do you suppose there are in the country?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:02:42] I think those of us that are doing this consistently every day, not kind of dabbling in it, I’d say that there’s four of us.
>> James Jacobson: [00:02:52] Okay. So you are in, you’re in a very elite company and we’ve probably spoken with some of them.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:02:57] Yes.
>> James Jacobson: [00:02:57] We should have all four of you on. So when you guys go to a conference, cause there’s an annual oncology conference, you all pal around and hang out together?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:03:06] Oh, for sure. Yeah, absolutely. The four of us are definitely very good friends.
>> James Jacobson: [00:03:12] I think this is a fascinating thing because veterinary oncology is a pretty small fraternity is not the right word, but a pretty small college of veterinarians in general.
How are you received by those who have been oncologists for a long time?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:03:29] So … and I think that distinction is an important one. Those who have been oncologists for a long time, I think the older school oncologists view what we do similarly to the same as conventional old school veterinarians view of what holistic veterinarians do, which is they’re skeptical.
Um, they want things to be proven in an evidence-based way that we were proven in veterinary school about certain modalities. And generally are not as open-minded about things as the younger generation is. I would say that the way that we’re received by our colleagues who either understand that there’s a real need for people trained in integrative oncology to support their patients and are also more open-minded, receive us very well because they know that we are able to answer questions that they get asked on a daily basis that they can’t answer.
>> James Jacobson: [00:04:31] Does that make them uncomfortable? If you can get in their head, I didn’t want to turn this into a giant psychology thing, but I think it’s a really fascinating thing that many of our listeners will connect with.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:04:41] Yeah. And, you know, I think it’s a good point that you’re bringing it up because I know that I’ve heard more than once people say, I wish I would’ve known about this earlier.
No one told me about this. I didn’t know that this was an option. And I think pet parents can get very angry and upset about that. And I think that it is important to understand that these are not treatments that were taught in school. These are not treatments that were taught in our residency. These are treatments that veterinarians are pursuing as continuing education, post allopathic, conventional training.
And so you’ll only get as much exposure to modalities that a veterinarian has had themselves. We don’t know what we don’t know. So I think that the open minded younger generation of oncologists are hungry for this information. A lot of the colleagues of mine are interested in it and want to know about it.
It’s just a bandwidth problem of how much can you do at one time? And I think the older are skeptical because, and I’ve been told this directly, it’s pseudoscience. And so I think that the reality is that eventually it’ll have to become more mainstream because there’s a demand for it. And that will be by the pet parents. They’ll make that happen.
>> James Jacobson: [00:06:04] That is fascinating. And that’s, I think part of the economics and what makes veterinary medicine kind of different than, than human medicine, because economics really drive it. And if there’s a demand for it, you’re going to see more colleagues like yourself.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:06:19] Oh, yeah. And you know, even though veterinarians, you know, we don’t love the fact that we’re a customer service industry, we are a customer service industry. Because our clients are not paying, you know, insurance companies to pay us. They’re paying us directly. They’re taking out their wallet and handing the cash over. And so that definitely changes our business. For sure.
>> James Jacobson: [00:06:44] How do you respond to some of those more curmudgeonly oncologists who say it’s pseudoscience?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:06:50] So one of my very first mentors in my holistic journey would always say, just smile. He was this Chinese man, is this Chinese man, who would say just smile. And that was a very simplistic way of saying it’s not important, what they think, let the results speak for themselves.
And I do that consistently. You know, when I have a oncologist who will reach out to me and sometimes they’ll be very angry. You know, sometimes they will be defensive or they’ll be angry, or they’ll be concerned that I’m doing something that could hurt their patient. I am very willing to have conversations, respectful conversations, because I can explain to them exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing.
I can show them the research about why I’m doing it. And I can talk their language to make them feel comfortable. Because I do know both sides. And other than that, I just let the results speak for themselves. Because part of the reason that you asked me, you know, just a few minutes ago, what do your colleagues think of you?
I think part of the reason, and I’m sure it’s like this for the other women that are trained similarly to me, that they do respect and refer to me is because they do absolutely appreciate that the patients that work with me do better. And that’s better for them, because then their patients have less side effects.
They have less concerns. They’re hospitalized less. The parents are less concerned. And so it’s a win-win for everybody. So I think that once they understand the benefit to them, then it’s like a no brainer.
>> James Jacobson: [00:08:29] You bring up a point that I was going to raise, which is that these, these colleagues who are both, you know, boarded oncologists and holistic oriented are all women. And they’re younger women, anything there.
Is there a pattern? I know we’re not looking at a very large group to pull from, but is there any, any thoughts on that?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:08:50] That’s interesting. I’m trying to think if there’s like a tie that binds the four of us. Um, it’s funny because one of us who’s the oldest, she was a mentor of mine. When I was a student, I went to go visit her practice.
We all are very type A, we all are very overachieving, slightly misogynistic in the sense of how much just school we love to do. Um, I don’t know, other than that, though, you know, the profession obviously is three fourths women. So that has something to do with it,
>> James Jacobson: [00:09:23] With the profession, meaning the veterinary profession.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:09:25] Yeah.
>> James Jacobson: [00:09:26] Yeah. Which is a big shift.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:09:28] Yeah, exactly. So I don’t know if other than that…
>> James Jacobson: [00:09:33] OK, well, when you say misogynistic, in terms of the work you all, did, you guys are kind of, when I affectionately call dog health nerds. I mean, and in pet health, we’ll do pet health, but I mean, let’s talk a little bit about the amount of schooling because you kind of went to some good schools.
I mean, you went to Virginia Tech, undergrad, and as someone who went to the University of Virginia, I’m just have to forgive you for that.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:09:56] Oh no!
>> James Jacobson: [00:09:57] Wahoowa. But, you know, we don’t, we won’t talk about that, but let’s talk a little bit about some of your other academic preparation on both the oncology side, the veterinary side, and then the holistic.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:10:08] Sure. When you go to veterinary school, you’re going to do your typical undergrad. And then you’re going to go to your four years of veterinary school, just like someone who was pre-med would. So they do their pre-med training. They do their medical school training. When you’re a veterinarian, you can practice right away once you graduate.
But if you’re interested in specializing, then you go on to your post-doctorate training, which, if you’re lucky, will only take four years. Not everybody gets into an internship and a residency right away, and it can take longer than that. So in order to do your four years of undergrad, your four years of medical school, veterinary school, and then your four years of internship and residency, that’s your 12 years to become your boarded specialist, is the shortest amount of time that it’ll take. All of the holistic training is completely separate from any of the conventional system right now. Depending on what veterinary school you go to, you may have more exposure than others. I was very lucky at the University of Florida. That’s where I got exposed very early, um, which is, I believe the reason I was able to be on this path and why I’m on this path and why I went to that school.
I, that was the reason I was meant to be there. But that’s all done outside of your conventional training. So for me, I did a lot of it when I was in veterinary school. For other people they’ll do it on their free time, depending on how dedicated you are, you’ll, some people have no free time so that they could have more of this training.
And so I was, along with doing my conventional training, doing my holistic training all throughout. And then once I finished my residency, because it does have to be a priority, then I just like dove into the deep end of the holistic pool. And I think most holistic practitioners will tell you this.
There’s so many tools to learn about that once you kind of get your hands on one, then you’re down the rabbit hole and you’re a little bit further. And you’re like, oh, this is really interesting too. And then this is really cool. And you just keep grabbing different tools that speak to you and fascinate you and learn more and more about them.
And so I think, almost all of us will say that it’s a lifelong learning, you know, commitment because you just love it and are fascinated by it.
>> James Jacobson: [00:12:23] And so some of the schooling, I mean, you spent a lot of time learning the holistic side at the Chi Institute.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:12:29] Yeah. Yeah. You know, depending on how much you do there, that in itself, you know, took probably three or four years.
Yeah. Probably three years to finish everything.
>> James Jacobson: [00:12:38] And what is the Chi Institute and what were the big takeaways?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:12:41] So that’s one of the main Chinese Medicine training programs. A lot of us have connected through that. And a lot of the four integrative oncologists are Chi grads, it’s definitely, um, a home to a lot of holistic vets.
And so a place to learn acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, something called Tui Na, which is basically acupressure. Food therapy, they have a Master’s program now. They have advanced courses. So a place for continuing education. There is a movement that I’m part of where we’re trying to get botanical medicines specifically to become a board-certified recognized specialty as the same as something like oncology is, but that’s going to take awhile. That’s going to be something five, 10 years down the road. But I do think that there’s an appetite for it. And I do think that the conventional community understands that there’s a need for it.
>> James Jacobson: [00:13:36] And that’s why you’re a part of, or I guess, president of the American Board of Veterinary Botanical Medicine.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:13:43] Yeah, that’s the one. Yep.
>> James Jacobson: [00:13:45] So what would that look like? And what were the ramifications of that be, and what’s the process to get that kind of certification?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:13:52] So the first thing that has to happen is the American Veterinary Medical Association, our big governing body, needs to feel that there is a need. And for them to feel that there’s a need, they need us to prove a petition and give them a petition that would pass their inspection, which is a very, very detailed process, very long and in-depth process, but also that they feel that this specialty is succinct and separate and different from specialties that already exist.
So it’s not a holistic college. It’s purely a botanical medicine college. So. In veterinary medicine, a little bit of what we do falls under nutrition. Cause oftentimes herbs are used as food or alongside food. A little bit of what we do falls under toxicology, because some of these botanicals are completely toxic.
A little bit of what we do falls under pharmacology, because a lot of what we use, we use them like drugs. We use them as medicine. So, we have to prove to them
>> James Jacobson: [00:14:52] And each of those three has its specialty pharmacology,
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:14:56] Yes.
>> James Jacobson: [00:14:56] Toxicology, and nutrition.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:14:58] They all already have established. So we have to prove why we’re separate from them.
And we shouldn’t join one of them, which may one day actually be what happens. But then it would allow us a formal conventionally recognized college that we could then train residents. So that then it gives us this credential, this minimum baseline of education, so that other conventional specialists like oncologists and cardiologists and surgeons, when they have botanical medicine questions, they can say, these are the people that can answer those for you.
>> James Jacobson: [00:15:34] That is so fascinating. How far along is the, is the movement? You said it could be a number of years, are you already into that process.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:15:42] Yeah, I jumped in after they had already been working on it probably for five years or so. And there’s been a group of very, well-respected very known herbalists in the community that have been working very hard for a long time, but you know, there’s already an inherent bias towards certain things like botanical medicine.
And so. Although it may not be fair. There is going to be likely extra hoops that we have to jump through and to prove that it’s needed. I think cannabis has accelerated a lot of this because they see how much research is coming out, when looking at studying cannabis and CBD products, and they see the demand on the pet parent side and the client side, asking for these things.
And so they know that there’s going to be someone that needs to help answer these questions and do the research. So I think that although a lot of groundwork has already been laid in order for us to get up to speed with doing clinical research, presenting data, collaborating on a national level that our governing body sees as a real movement, that’s going to probably take five to ten years. But along the way, we’re going to be doing things that are hopefully great and starting to make a difference and a presence.
>> James Jacobson: [00:16:59] Are there entrenched interests that are proving incredibly challenging? Like I dunno, pharmaceutical or pet food companies, or are they pretty much standing by and watching this as an opportunity for them to make money?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:17:12] I think that at this point, there’s not a ton of industry interest. I think that eventually there will be. I think that what becomes challenging, and this is not just in my opinion, but in the opinion of many botanical and holistic practitioners, one of the main hurdles to doing clinical research and get industry backing and industry funding for really nice clinical trials, is that the tools we use are not patentable. You know, a company can’t come in and say, let me take this plant and patent it so that I can make millions of dollars. They’re not going to be able to do that. So the interest isn’t there to back these types of things. And so. That becomes a problem. And I think that, although we all want to hope and wish that researchers are doing research for the benefit of all living things, unfortunately that’s not what drives research, what drives research is money.
And that’s a very sad reality. And so it can be very challenging to find funding for really great clinical trials, which are very expensive. And so that can slow and delay the progression of these types of treatments.
>> James Jacobson: [00:18:24] How are you addressing that?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:18:26] There’s definitely going to have to be a different approach than what there normally is.
The good news is that it’s not impossible. So although mega huge grants would be harder to get for these types of projects than it would be for a pharmaceutical company, and that type of money we think about like with human drugs is not realistic, there are certain sectors and certain non-profit organizations that specifically have money put aside for these types of projects.
The other reality is crowdfunding and public donations. There’s a large, and many, many people, not necessarily wealthy people, just the average person, who is willing to put money towards helping to advance these types of things. One example is a publicly funded clinical trial to evaluate the duration of the rabies vaccine.
There was no pharmaceutical backing in that, but there was over a million dollars raised by public funds to do that study. So there are pet parents and other people who know about this problem that are willing to give $5, $10, $20, a hundred dollars to make a difference. And that adds up when you have thousands of people who are interested in that.
>> James Jacobson: [00:19:38] That’s fascinating. And that approach of thinking outside the box, because there are these, and we have seen entrenched interests that are maybe not as interested in non patentable product. Is that something that the American Botanical Veterinary, uh, Medicine group,
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:19:53] I know, too long.
>> James Jacobson: [00:19:55] Is that something that your group is looking at in terms of crowdfunding and putting that together?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:19:59] Yeah, definitely. We’ve just started to strategize some of those things. Cause it’s a bit of a ways down the road, but for example, I’ll just give you one in particular. There’s a human herbalist. His name is Donnie Yance and he’s very well known for his treatment in cancer. He’s trained basically all of the herbal integrative oncologist for people, and we are putting together a clinical trial with him, for his protocol for dogs with lymphoma, because he’s had great success treating lymphoma in people, which is very similar to the type of lymphoma dogs get. And so we’re working with him to put together a project. And that money is likely coming a little bit from his nonprofit organization, likely a little bit from the Veterinary Botanical Organization, and then probably likely a little bit from another non-profit that was developed purely in the veterinary sector for holistic clinical trials. So they’re not coming from these big NIH grants, but they’re coming from lots of smaller organizations that have a vested interest in this kind of stuff.
>> James Jacobson: [00:21:05] And we will put links in the show notes for today’s show so that listeners can find out more about these organizations and get on their mailing list and perhaps, uh, participate.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:21:14] Awesome.
>> James Jacobson: [00:21:14] Let’s pause for a quick break. We’ll be right back.
And we’re back with Dr. Kendra Pope. A lot of this has the word American first,
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:21:26] Oh, yeah.
>> James Jacobson: [00:21:26] And I was wondering how this type of approach is being perceived internationally.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:21:34] Generally speaking, when you’re talking about natural agents. Botanicals, phytopharmaceuticals, you know, using plant extracts like medicine, the United States has many, many, many regulations that were put in place to try to protect people and animals.
But some may argue that it just restricts the ability to use certain things that can definitely be helpful. And so most other countries have much more latitude in their ability to reach for certain agents that we are unable to access. Even, for example, importing things into the country. There’s a lot of things that we aren’t even able to import or use that are mainstream in other places.
>> James Jacobson: [00:22:24] For example, what’s an example.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:22:27] One very specific one is mistletoe therapy, which is something that I use in practice. And it’s actually the most widely used alternative cancer treatment in the world. And it’s completely mainstream in places like Germany and Europe, conventional oncologists prescribe it alongside chemo all the time.
And due to FDA regulations, we are not allowed to import it into the United States. And so we use compounded versions. It’s not the same stuff, but it’s compounded, because it’s completely on the banned list. We can’t get it at all.
>> James Jacobson: [00:22:58] Let’s talk about mistletoe therapy. Cause when I read it first, I’m like, oh, you got to kiss the dog and then it’ll, it’ll fix it.
What is mistletoe therapy and why is it being embraced in Germany? And then I guess the followup to that is let’s talk a little bit about the German predilection for botanicals. But, mistletoe:
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:23:15] Mistletoe is the most widely used alternative cancer treatment in the world. It’s been used for over a hundred years and it’s been refined
>> James Jacobson: [00:23:25] in humans
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:23:26] in humans, and it’s been refined by Germans, but also used all over Europe.
There are a fair amount of clinical research and papers actually published in animals, mostly in other countries, but more so in animals than we really have for anything else. And what it is is mistletoe, just like you think about during the holidays. It’s a parasitic plant and it takes on characteristics of the host tree that it parasitizes.
And so the botanical acts slightly different depending on where it’s harvested from. And these extra,
>> James Jacobson: [00:24:04] Let’s break this down because this is fascinating.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:24:06] Sure.
>> James Jacobson: [00:24:06] So a parasitic, what does that mean in terms of a plant. Hosts parasites?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:24:11] So think about it, like, um, it’s actually, it’s very interesting when you see them in trees.
So mistletoe, if you’ve ever seen them in real life, they look like the balls that, you know, the, the artificial ones that, you know, everybody has hanging in their home around the holidays, but they’re these green leaves with these white berries, usually that’s the most common. And when they’re parasitizing the tree, there’ll be this bunch up in the branches.
And so it actually is a negative relationship. It’s not symbiotic, it’s, parasitizing, it’s bad for the tree. And so it doesn’t usually completely kill the tree, but it kills a part of it. And so whether it’s an Oak tree, an apple tree, a fir tree, a pine tree, those are some of the most common. The extracts within the mistletoe will be those of the hosts.
>> James Jacobson: [00:24:57] In the berries?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:24:58] It’s usually the leaves that we are using sometimes the berries too, but usually the leaves. And so they’re collected. And then they have a very special process that they’re put through where they’re ground up and then they have water added. And then actually what is said to make them so special is this vortex, this kind of centrifuge process that they’re put into, and then they’re turned into these sterile extracts, put in these small glass ampules. And then the contents of these ampules are administered via injection.
Either under the skin, either into a tumor, either by mouth, either intravenous sometimes. And it causes this very strong immune system reaction, which can cause swelling, redness, fever, malaise, and in that immune system response, it then secondarily helps the immune system to recognize those cancer cells and help to control it.
There’s also evidence that these mistletoe extracts themselves directly have anticancer activity. They actually can kill cancer cells specifically too. And so. It’s used for a lot of different things. It’s studied the most for quality of life, that it helps human cancer patients undergoing chemo feel better, get less sick, have less side effects, have less bone marrow suppression, but there’s also plenty of case reports about it shrinking the tumors. Also, lots of data about lymphomas and sarcomas, breast cancers, colon cancers. And so there’s a huge trial. I think they’ve completed enrollment at Johns Hopkins University. So we are able to import the real stuff, quote unquote, for clinical research purposes. And so they are using the stuff from Germany, at a trial and at Hopkins for stage four cancer patients.
So patients that, you know, no conventional treatments exist anymore. So they’re getting mistletoe therapy. And so we should see the data from it soon, but it’s something that’s been used for over a hundred years because it’s effective. And veterinarians have been using it much longer in other countries than in America, but there are veterinarians in the United States and in Canada that use it.
And in my practice, I would say that it’s a very important adjunct to what I do. And I think that for some of my patients, it’s probably keeping their cancers in remission.
>> James Jacobson: [00:27:30] So are you using the mistletoe ampules in conjunction with traditional western chemo?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:27:37] So I would say that my specific patient population is probably 50/50. So 50% of them are on conventional treatment.
They have their conventional oncologist as one of the teammates. I’m, you know, the integrative teammate. And we’re using all the tools in the toolbox. And then I would say the other 50% come to me either because conventional treatment has failed, it’s no longer working, or because they never wanted it in the first place.
And so I do use mistletoe a lot in patients who conventional treatment is not an option. So one of my patients who has had very successful outcomes with mistletoe therapy, is a dog who I’m treating for a pancreatic carcinoma. This summer, it’s going to be two years post his diagnosis. And so pancreatic carcinoma is just as horrible in dogs as it is in people.
And so when he came to me, the surgeon wasn’t able to remove the mass. There was nothing that could be done the conventional oncologist said, it’s not worth doing chemo. He’s probably only going to live three to six months. And so she came to me just hoping for anything. And now two years later, he’s still on mistletoe therapy and he’s still doing great.
So a lot of times the patients that end up on these kinds of treatments, usually are ones that have big tumors that nothing else can be done for them.
>> James Jacobson: [00:28:57] I want to talk about how you collaborate with other oncologists and other vets in a minute, but let’s go back to Europe for a moment. Do your veterinary colleagues in Europe use, say, the mistletoe therapy approach, and when they do, is that thought of as a alternative or is that sort of more mainstream?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:29:16] I’m trying to connect more with European colleagues because they’ve been using these modalities longer. And I recently found an organization, that I’m really excited they have a conference coming up. And once, you know, international travel is more realistic, I look forward to going to conferences out there. Because a lot of the human practitioners will go to Germany to study and to train.
And so. Generally speaking, and, and anybody who you know, is of European descent, generally speaking, European cultures have a lot more tradition than we do, and they still rely on things their grandparents did much more than we do in Western culture. You know, we’ve forgotten about all that stuff. And we just want all the new aids, you know, junk. And we’ve forgotten all of the things that tradition and hundreds of years of evolution taught us.
And so. Generally speaking, and this is true in Asia, very much true in Asia, and in India. For sure. There’s just a way of living that incorporates herbs and tradition and mind, body, and spiritualism and faith much more than we do in Western culture. And so a lot of those things are not considered as unusual or alternative, they’re just considered part of the way of living.
And so mistletoe specifically falls into this category of medicine that’s called anthroposophic medicine, which is a little bit like homeopathy, but also a little bit. And that’s something that’s considered very mainstream in Germany. That’s not unusual at all. And so it’s more about really understanding the energetics of the patient in front of you and tailoring a treatment for that patient in front of you instead of treating that disease that that patient has.
And so those types of approaches, which is if you think about it, and you know anything about Ayurveda, which originates in India. Or TCM, which originates in China, that’s what they do too. It’s about using the energetics of the patient in front of you to tailor a treatment plan versus treating a disease. And so in general, my European, you know, Indian and Asian, you know, mentors, it’s just a very different system of medicine approach than what we’re trained in the states.
>> James Jacobson: [00:31:41] And I don’t think, well, I’ll ask you are Europeans dying at earlier ages than Americans?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:31:49] [Laughs] No, we’re the sickest, we’re the sickest. We’re the richest and the sickest. And I think that very sadly and very seriously, COVID has proven that. We are some of the sickest people in the world.
>> James Jacobson: [00:32:06] Pretty interesting. So this ability to pull from other areas, Europe and Asia seems pivotal, to shifting some of these biases to embrace something like botanicals and mistletoe and probably kissing your dogs, probably not a bad idea either. Right?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:32:26] Yeah. You know, it’s interesting because like, for example, I have a colleague who’s in Hong Kong. I worked with her here in New Jersey and then she moved to Hong Kong. And she practices there now. On one hand, all of these other countries from a veterinary perspective have access and acceptance of all of these quote unquote alternative modalities.
But then on the other hand, they look at animals like animals, where in the United States, we look at animals like family members. So when it comes to how advanced our veterinary allopathic medicine is it’s leaps and bounds. But then when we look at all of the traditional medicine, they have a lot more to offer.
So it’s like we can do more of the allopathic, but then when you go to Europe, they’re like, oh, it’s just a dog. So it’s kind of like, we don’t have anywhere where it’s blended exactly the way we would like it to be.
>> James Jacobson: [00:33:20] Well, hopefully that’s in the future. And that blending will happen across international borders.
You were talking about working with a colleague, in this case, the one, when you had this dog with pancreatic cancer, who’s an oncologist. How often are you paired with an oncologist or regular vet, a general practice vet, to work on, on a case?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:33:41] I always prepare my patients, my clients, that my patients are on a team of doctors of which I’m only one of them, because I want them to have all of that other support system because there’s other things they’re going to need other than what I can do for them.
And so a hundred percent of the time there is another veterinarian involved, whether that’s an oncologist, it’s not a hundred percent of the time. But it’s a lot of the time. There also could be a cardiologist if we’re dealing with heart disease. An internist for dealing with other things or the general practitioner, if it’s just for wellness.
So I encourage, you know, from the perspective of our, our Western preferences. We like one-stop shopping. We like to have everything in one place. We want it all one and done. But the reality is that when it comes definitely to holistic medicine, you’re gonna definitely have more than one doctor. And you may have multiple, for example, with my own healthcare, I have an acupuncturist and a chiropractor and a naturopath and a holistic MD and an herbalist, and a this, because there’s so many tools to use that you’re likely going to want someone who’s really perfected that tool, instead of kind of somebody that does a little bit of everything because you, you know, if you’re a Jack of all trades, you’re a master of none. And so it can be a lot. It can be too much sometimes. It usually is better to have this team approach because everybody’s going to be looking through a different lens that can help their pet.
>> James Jacobson: [00:35:14] And you’re in New Jersey. I know one of your colleagues, who’s also been on the show within this sisterhood of four vets, is Dr. Trina Hazzah, she’s in California.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:35:23] Yeah. Yup.
>> James Jacobson: [00:35:24] Uh, who are the other two and where are they located?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:35:27] Dr. Erin Bannink is in Michigan and Dr. Betsy Hershey is in Phoenix.
>> James Jacobson: [00:35:32] So if you don’t live near one of those major metropolises, what do you do?
When you want to find a veterinary oncologist who has a holistic approach.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:35:42] The good news is, is that you don’t have to worry about it now that you have access to the internet. You know, there’s so many things that are available to people now, you know, along with books that they can read and podcasts that they can listen to and blogs that they can follow and ebooklets that people have published.
There’s, you know, so much information, even veterinarians on Instagram and social, you know, provide stuff all the time on YouTube, all kinds of stuff. So the good news is there’s a lot of that. One point I’d like to make about what do you do if there’s not an oncologist close to you? Although there are obvious benefits to working directly with someone who is extensively trained in both, most of the time and definitely on the human side, I don’t know a single human oncologist who’s trained holistically. And that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, I just don’t know them personally. And I go to all the human conferences. Because usually speaking, you’re going to just specialize in one thing. It’s just Trina and Erin and Betsy and I are a little bit nuts.
>> James Jacobson: [00:36:45] You do know that there’s a whole school of naturopathic oncologists for humans.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:36:50] But they’re not allowed to do chemo.
>> James Jacobson: [00:36:52] Right.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:36:52] So even though they’re called oncologists, they’re naturopaths, right? So it’s a naturopathic specialty. It’s kind of like what we do, doesn’t marry, you know, because we’ve gone to train specifically to use chemo. But then we’ve gone to train, to use botanicals. You know what I mean? The interesting part is that so many chemos have been derived from plants, Pacific yew tree, the periwinkle, those all are what certain chemo agents come from. So my point is that if you’re not directly able to consult with someone who is conventionally trained and holistically trained, you are likely able to find someone who’s holistically trained, who either has taught with us, has taken our courses, has worked with us, can consult with us, and likely can still put together a protocol that very much can help.
The other big thing that I think is really important, that pet parents can get very overwhelmed with, when their pet is diagnosed with cancer, is that they want someone to tell them just what to do. And they want someone to tell them just what to do to help them. And when it comes to all of these holistic treatments, there’s this huge kind of toolbox with all of these things that we can pull out.
And all of them may help in different ways, and they likely all help each other work better. But at the end of the day, the owner has to choose how much they want to do and how much they can do. And it really is up to the pet parents to be the advocate for their pet. And that can be a lot of responsibility and that can be a huge emotional burden and that it can be really hard.
But that’s unfortunately the truth. And so I think that the other thing to recognize is more so that they are very powerful just by advocating themselves and learning things themselves and getting resources themselves, and then working with holistic vets that they have close to them because they probably have access to a lot more than they realize they do.
>> James Jacobson: [00:38:53] We’re going to take another quick break right here, but when we come back, I want to ask you about your own dog. We’ll be right back
And we are back with Dr. Kendra Pope. I wanted to ask you about your 17 year old dog. Fritz.. Tell me about Fritz.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:39:15] He, um, luckily is deaf and so right now he has no idea what’s going on. So he’s not interrupting us. He’s asleep face planted on the carpet because he can’t hear me. So he’s been my biggest learning experience. I got him when I was a junior, the summer before I was a senior in college, actually the summer that I was touring veterinary schools.
So he’s been with me through many pivotal moments in my life and traveled all over the country through all of the education and training and moving in and all of the things that have happened. And, as I’ve gone down this holistic journey. He’s definitely been my Guinea pig. [Laughs]. So he’s had all the things, stem cell treatments, vitamin C infusions, ozone therapy, um, all the herbs, all the diets.
So he’s been a fantastic learning experience and he’s had a lot of things wrong with him in his 17 years. He’s been paralyzed. He’s had strokes, he’s had pancreatitis. He’s had pneumonia. He’s had such bad herniated disc in his neck that one of the top neurologic surgeons said, Kendra, I can’t do anything for him.
You have to fix him. And so I did. And so now at 17 years old, he’s still on no pharmaceuticals and people still think he’s a puppy. Um, he’s got obvious medical conditions and he’s not a puppy anymore, but he is a testament to how powerful many of these things are.
>> James Jacobson: [00:40:52] Do you think that every veterinarian should have a dog like that or an animal like that, that is their test candidate and their teacher?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:41:00] Yeah, I think a lot of us do. I think a lot of veterinarians will tell you that there was an animal either as a child or in, as in adulthood when they were a veterinarian that helped to teach them something that they will continue to learn and carry with them.
But yeah, you know because, when it comes to these holistic treatments, I think one of the hardest things about them, and this goes back to one of the first questions you asked me is that we don’t have this randomized controlled clinical trials to prove that this is the gold standard. And so there’s always people questioning what you’re doing, and if you’re a good practitioner, you’re questioning, what you’re doing.
Because you want to make sure that this is the right thing too, because it’s not there. And I think many very good holistic teachers will tell you at one point in time, they thought this was all crock of hooey too. And they somehow in investigating, this quote, unquote, crock of hooey realized how amazing it was and then went down the rabbit hole.
And so I think a lot of times you’ll hear people’s story of, you know, the way they got into holistic medicine was trying to prove that someone didn’t deserve their license or whatever. There’s definitely that story in veterinary medicines and a lot of my human mentors, too have that same story. So I think that definitely having those learning experiences and that confidence to say, oh my gosh, this does work. You know, every day when I treat patients, I do it wholeheartedly believing a thousand percent that it will help them. But when you have patients that go on to live years and years and years longer than they’re supposed to, you’re like “see, I told you so! I knew it all along!”
>> James Jacobson: [00:42:40] That’s a good feeling.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:42:42] Yeah, exactly. So it’s just an extra validation.
>> James Jacobson: [00:42:45] So you’re in your kitchen. I want you to pull out your crystal ball cause I’m sure every veterinarian has one of those and look into the crystal ball 10 years from now is 2031. What do you see for veterinary medicine and vet oncology?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:43:01] I think that oncology specifically is going to be very different. I think that the more and more conventional research is done the more and more that they realize that chemotherapy is not going to cure and that these more targeted and tailored approaches are more humane and are more likely to establish long-term control.
I am absolutely a believer of chemo and I use it. So this isn’t me saying, I don’t think there’s a place for chemo. I just think that the amount of time that we’ve been using it compared to the amount of advancements we’ve had in treating diseases and curing diseases has not been what it should be and does not compare.
When we look at other chronic conditions and the advancements we’ve made, I think that there’s going to be a movement towards immunotherapies, targeted therapies, and these less toxic general waging war drugs. Veterinary medicine will fall in suit because they’re generally five to 10 to 20 years behind in certain pharmaceuticals, but there’s a market for these.
So the industries are starting to recognize that and starting to advance things for us. From the botanical medicine side, it seems to me, even in the amount of time, I have my ten-year veterinary school reunion this year, even in the last 10 years, it seems to me that it’s becoming very trendy to be healthy. And that people are becoming more and more aware of what that truly means and what it means to live in the toxic world we live in and the things that we need to do to try to minimize toxicity and to enhance health.
And so I think that that information will become more widely accepted and accessible to people so that they can understand. And my hope is that for cancer specifically, that there’s more of a focus on prevention than treatment. Because in my opinion, the only cure for cancer is prevention. I think once you have cancer, the goal is to make it a chronic disease that’s in remission, that’s not bothering you. But I think the only real cure for cancer is that we prevent it from ever happening.
>> James Jacobson: [00:45:20] And the way to do that with Fritz Jr. Would be, if you were starting with the puppy today, what would you, what would you do to ensure or the best odds against getting cancer?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:45:33] I think that it’s a very hard question that I bet you in 10 years, if you asked me my answer will absolutely be different because of the amount of things that you learn all the time.
But I think that there are major components that are important. When we look at the incidences of cancer and people it’s one in three, essentially. When you look at the incidences in cancer, in dogs and cats, it’s one in three, essentially.
>> James Jacobson: [00:45:58] Surprise.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:45:58] And so it’s exactly the same. Yeah. Exactly. And the major risk factors for people for cancer are smoking, alcohol consumption, and sun exposure.
None of those are reasons for animals to get cancer. Yes, there can be secondary smoke, but that’s not why they get lung cancer. Likely. Most of the lung cancer patients, I have don’t come from smoking households. So there’s another factor in animals that we haven’t identified yet. And, a lot of people want to chalk it up to the nutrition.
I think nutrition plays a role. I don’t know that that’s everything. I think that probably genetics and inbreeding, you know, that’s the nice way of what the breeders call line breeding, probably play a bigger role than we realize. And so I think that when you say you have a puppy, what do you do? Honestly, I think it probably starts even before that.
I think it’s where do you get the puppy from? What dogs are you purchasing? If you’re purchasing. If you’re rescuing, you know, you only have so much control over that. So I think for animals, there’s probably other epidemiologic parts to this equation that are slightly different than there are from people.
But when you look at cancer prevention tips in humans, there’s a lot to do with diet and then lifestyle modifications. And the unfortunate reality is that even if you eat a quote unquote, nutritious diet, that is organic and is grass fed and is pasture raised and is wild caught and is seasonal and is sourced locally.
And is all of those things that are really hard to do, honestly, it takes a lot of work. And it also, for a lot of people it’s just not affordable. It’s just, I hate that. That is my pet peeve. And if even with that, we unfortunately live in a country where even if you do those things, the food still will not have the nutrients in it that we need it to have.
So we have to supplement. And we have to do this, and we have to detoxify, and we have to filter our water. And so I think that it’s overwhelming when you think about it. But I think that as it becomes more and more mainstream and people become more and more educated on these types of things, they can become less overwhelming.
And hopefully all of those social media, big pharma, all those big companies can help us to do better because, you are starting to see movements for that. You know, there’s more restaurants carrying local, there’s more restaurants carrying organic. There’s more grocery stores that have more affordable, organic.
So little things are happening here and there where it’s becoming easier and more affordable to be healthy, which it just extends into the animals. It’s very uncommon that I have clients that come to seek my philosophy and my treatment plan that don’t believe in it themselves. And so it’s about, you know, this being the way of living, not something that you do to treat diseases.
>> James Jacobson: [00:48:58] I’ve never asked a vet this question, but I will ask you this. What role do you think stress has in a dog. We know that stress is related a lot to human medical conditions. Do you think that being in a stressful environment or stressful family? I don’t mean like, oh, they’re not going to find food, but I mean, emotional stress and, cause dogs are pretty empathic.
Do you think that might have something to connect with cancer?
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:49:24] I think it’s such a fascinating question because I’m thinking about answers from a couple of different angles. I will tell you definitely that when the pandemic started and when everybody was home and frantic and scared and wiping down all their grocery bags and wiping down all the door handles that veterinarians that I talked to across the United States, you know, colleagues I had in California, colleagues I had in Michigan, colleagues, I had, you know, in other parts of the country, north, south, wherever, we all felt like animals were sicker than they had ever been with more terrible diseases that they have ever had more aggressive cancers than we had ever seen all at one time.
And whether that was just perception because of everything that was going on in the world, or whether something actually happened, obviously I can’t tell. The other thing that I’ll also say is that it’s very common and you’ll hear this all the time, and you’ll hear this from people in places like Canada, where you can be both a veterinarian and a naturopath and treat humans and animals, very often the diseases are the same. And so I don’t know that I looked into the scientific research behind this enough to give an articulate explanation for why any of this is, but I absolutely believe that there is some correlation. I would also say that when you talk about how quote unquote stress affects humans and chronic disease, there’s good stress and there’s bad stress. There is hormetic stressors, they’re called. Things like high heat, low heat, high intensity interval training, intermittent fasting, things that are quote unquote good stresses for the body that actually make the cells stronger after that stress.
And then there’s bad stress. Like the chronic cortisol surges. Not sleeping enough, annoying bosses, screaming children, bad relationships, no relationships, isolation, all of those things that cause the bad effects, that are the ones that are linked to chronic disease. And oftentimes, those quote unquote bad stresses are related to things that evolutionarily our bodies are not equipped to handle because we weren’t meant to do those things.
You know, we weren’t meant to stare at computer screens for 10 hours a day, or, you know, be under fluorescent lights all the time and never in the sunlight. So there’s likely those same stressors for the dogs. They evolutionarily were meant to be much more active than they are. Most of them are very sedentary. Meant to be more interactive with the outdoors and all of them live inside with, we do. Meant to eat real food, most of them eat processed food. So there’s likely those same bad stressors for them, that are probably, I would imagine, just as detrimental as it is people. The mind, body part, you know, we’re humans, so powerfully control their physiology and their physical body with their mental state. That part, I don’t know as much about with animals because that higher level of thinking, we haven’t been able to prove that they have, but because they don’t have that, they’re much more in tune, just like you said, with energy, you know, with what’s around them. You know, they don’t have that higher level thinking, so it’s more about intuition and instinct. And so there has to be a lot of that, that changes when they’re inside and not in a colony, in a pack with a hierarchy. They’re with us.
>> James Jacobson: [00:52:52] There is so much more to learn and hopefully some of your predictions in the crystal ball will come true, and we’ll also learn about some of the emotional and the stresses, that could be impacting pet cancer. Dr. Kendra Pope. Thank you so much for being with us today. It has been an awesome pleasure and I enjoyed this conversation.
>> Dr. Kendra Pope: [00:53:12] Yeah. It’s been great. Some really fun topics that I haven’t talked about in a while.
And like, I just loved some of the questions you asked. I haven’t had them at all. So they were great. They were like a little bit esoteric. They were fun. So thank you.
>> James Jacobson: [00:53:26] Thank you, Dr. Kendra Pope. And thank you listener, for joining us today. You can find us on all the socials and make sure you join our support group at DogCancerSupport.com. The show notes and all the links for today are at DogCancerAnswers.com. And if you have a question for a future show, you can call our Listener Line at (808) 868-3200, and leave a message. That is 808 868 3200. That is a 24 hour a day, seven day recorded voicemail, where you can leave us a message, and we’ll ask one of our vets on a future episode of Dog Cancer Answers. I want to thank you for listening today. I’m James Jacobson and from all of us here at Dog Podcast Network, I want to wish you and your dog, a very warm, aloha.
>> Announcer: Thank you for listening to Dog Cancer Answers. If you’d like to connect, please visit our website at DogCancerAnswers.com or call our Listener Line at (808) 868-3200. Here’s a friendly reminder that you probably already know: this podcast is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not meant to take the place of the advice you received from your dog’s veterinarian.
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Host, Podcast Veteran
Maui, Hawaii, USA
James is one of the hosts on Dog Cancer Answers and founder of the Dog Podcast Network, a series of shows dedicated to all things dog.