ONE man and his dog are travelling to North Carolina this week, to provide a puppy with a pioneering stem cell transplant that could save her life.
Robert Alcock and his cocker spaniel, Coco, are making the journey so Coco, 7, can donate her stem cells to one of her own puppies, Millie, 6, who has cancer.
The experimental procedure is not yet available in the UK and can only be performed at one US hospital, the NC State Veterinary Hospital.
It involves using stem cells from the bone marrow of one dog and injecting them into the other.
Even if the operation is a success, there is only a 50 percent chance that Millie will be cured.
Millie was taken to the USA when her owners, Serena and Andrew Lodge, emigrated for work. After moving across the pond, Millie contracted cancer.
Millie the dog last week and (inset) before she became ill
Mr Alcock, who lives in Darwen, said the only way to help her is the transplant.
The 52-year-old catering manager said: “Serena and Andrew started chemo on Millie three months ago but they’ve been told the only chance they’ll have of curing her is if they find a positive donor so she can have a transplant.
“They contacted us, and we sent some blood samples for testing, along with samples from one of Coco’s other pups.
“They both came back positive but because Coco is Millie’s mother the vet said she would be a better match.”
Mr and Mrs Lodge then asked Mr Alcock if he would fly to the USA with Coco so she could help save Millie’s life.
On Wednesday, Mr Alcock made the journey to North Carolina, to the only animal hospital in the States that can perform that kind of transplant on dogs.
Mr Alcock added: “The Lodges have paid for everything, and I didn’t like to ask how much the operation is costing but I think it will be in the thousands.
“We will be in America for about a week.
“Coco will go into hospital on Sunday for the procedure and then the cells will be donated on Monday.”
Coco is expected to make a full recovery from the operation, but there is only a 50 per cent chance that Millie could be cured once the transplant has been completed.
Robert and Coco
Mr Alcock added: “If it was a human then the chances of survival would be really good.
“But this is a pioneering procedure, they haven’t done very many of these transplants before, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”