Yoshi, 15, Enjoys Good Quality of Life After Cancer Treatment; Contributes Medical Knowledge as Clinical Trial Volunteer

For Immediate Release: January 12, 2021Yoshi on the front port

Baton Rouge, LA-Sarah Senette gained an unexpected companion on a hiking trip she took immediately after Hurricane Katrina. A 10-month-old homeless dog joined her at the start and followed her all 26 miles. They bonded on the trail, and Sarah decided to claim her for her own. She named her Yoshi.

“When we met, I was listening to one of my favorite albums, Yoshimi versus the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips. Her name got shortened quickly,” Sarah said.

Fifteen years later, at the start of COVID-19, Sarah noticed Yoshi having nose bleeds that didn’t go away. She took Yoshi to her longstanding veterinarian, Rachelle Biondolillo, DVM (LSU SVM 1997), at Prytania Veterinary Hospital in New Orleans. She was diagnosed with a cancerous nasal tumor. Sarah sought treatment for Yoshi at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, where she was seen in Oncology and Internal Medicine.

A CT scan and biopsy were done to help determine treatment options. The cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes. In addition to the nasal tumor, a pituitary tumor also was detected. It could not be biopsied. Sarah chose a course of four radiation treatments, one each week, during July 2020.

“At first, I was very nervous because, due to COVID-19, I would be unable to accompany Yoshi into the building and be as present as I would want to for the process. I really shouldn't have worried. Staff members were highly communicative and answered all of my many questions. The doctors provided me with lots of options for possible routes of treatment, including possible side effects and costs,” Sarah said.

Yoshi experienced no side effects from the radiation treatments, and she handled the brief periods under anesthesia well.

“It’s like we hit the reset button on her quality of life,” Sarah said.

“Our goal was to increase Yoshi’s quality of life. She was a pleasure to work with. She was a champ,” said Jennifer Merkle, DVM, radiation oncology resident.

Staff went out of their way to include sweet notes about Yoshi's personality on her medical records.

“What impressed me most is that every doctor I interacted with, from internal medicine to oncology, was compassionate and patient to the extreme. I was able to enroll Yoshi in a clinical trial for nasal tumors and the results were very good,” Sarah said.

“We are so grateful for Yoshi's contribution to our clinical trial. Each patient that enrolls in our trial helps us gain invaluable insight on how the immune system responds to radiation and expands our treatment options for future patients,” Dr. Merkle said.

Now, Yoshi is back to making roundtrip drives with Sarah from New Orleans to Lafayette, where Sarah teaches history at South Louisiana Community College. Upon completing radiation treatments, the entire Oncology Department signed an LSU bandana for Yoshi.

“Yoshi is leaving a legacy by participating in the clinical trial, contributing knowledge that may give other dogs with her same diagnosis more time with their loved ones. I will always be grateful for LSU’s expertise and consideration during this difficult time,” Sarah said.

Information on VTH Clinical Trials


Sandra Sarr