1. New Canine Cancer Treatments Available

    PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Cancer isn’t just for humans.  It’s a big problem for pets too, and now new treatments are becoming available for our four legged friends.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on cancer cures for canines.It’s estimated that one third of  dogs, and one in every four cats will get cancer at some point in their lives.  But veterinarians are finding new ways to help pets live longer and better lives, with fewer side effects.

    Meet Maizey, and Dakota.  Both pooches are battling cancer. “Had no appetite. She couldn’t keep anything down.  And unfortunately it got to the point where she couldn’t walk,” said Joan Brown, Maizey’s owner. Veterinarians treat between four and six million cases of canine cancer each year, using radiation and in Maizey’s case newer chemotherapy drugs, like Palladia, which targets certain molecules in cancer cells to kill them.

    “Her survival time instead of being 2 months it’s likely going to be between one and three years,” said Dr. Gerald Post, a Veterinary Oncologist. Warning signs of cancer in pets are similar to people.  Watch for a lump that gets bigger or changes shape,  unexplained bleeding or chronic weight loss. Dakota had surgery to get a fast-growing lump removed.  The vet followed up with a new treatment called IMRT or Intensity modulated radiation therapy that he hopes will cure Dakota.

    “We can kill cancer cells with those dosage of radiation that spare all the normal tissues around that area,” said Dr. Post. Vets are also prescribing new anti-nausea medications to minimize the side effects, and it worked for Dakota. Cancer treatments for animals can be expensive and usually aren’t covered by insurance.

    by Stephanie Stahl

    Watch Video on the PHILADELPHIA (CBS) website!

  2. Hot off the Presses – New Study Shines Light On Radiation for Nasal Sarcomas

    A new study published in the March/April edition of Veterinary Radiology and Ultrasound provides some very useful information about treating nasal sarcomas in dogs.  This study was entitled Survival Times for Canine Intranasal Sarcomas Treated with Radiation Therapy: 86 Cases (1996-2011), Sones Vet Radiol Ultrasound.  Nasal sarcomas comprise approximately 1/3 of nasal tumors in dogs and although previous papers have shown longer survival times for sarcomas, the number of patients treated in those papers has been limited. One exciting aspect of this study is how the authors used data from a number of institutions to be able to study a larger number of patients.  Many studies looking at the treatment of tumors in dogs and cats, do not include a large enough number of patients to be meaningful.  In the future, studies like this one will allow us to learn more about how to treat uncommon diseases.

    Another critical piece of information from this study is that it confirms that dogs with nasal sarcomas can have an excellent outcome when treated with radiation therapy.  In this study dogs with nasal sarcomas had an average survival of almost 15 months with approximately 1/3 of the dogs living for greater than two years.  This confirms that prognosis can be very good with treatment.  The study also showed that dogs who received a definitive course of radiation, with treatments performed every day had a significantly longer survival than dogs treated with radiation every other day (21 months versus 11 months).  This is the first paper to show this for nasal tumors and it confirms the importance of treating patients daily with radiation.

    A final key point of this study is that palliative radiation may be a good option for many pets.  Dogs treated with palliative radiation had a significantly shorter median survival than dogs treated with daily radiation (305 versus 641 days).  However palliative radiation still was helpful for most dogs.  Palliative radiation involves fewer treatments with less side effects and with an average survival time of 10 months this may be an excellent treatment option, especially for dogs who are not good candidates for definitive treatment.

    Studies like this one continue to give us useful information to help us provide more quality time for our pets with cancer.


    – Dr. John Farrelly (April 2013)

  3. New technology for the treatment of nasal tumors in dogs and cats

    Nasal tumors are one of the most challenging tumors to treat in dogs and cats.  These tumors usually fill up one or both sides of the entire nasal cavity and sinuses.  In the skull of a dog or cat, this means that the tumor often wraps around the eyes and the brain and it usually lies just above the palate.  Therefore, when treating these patients with radiation therapy in the past, we typically needed to include a great deal of the oral mucosa, the eyes and the brain.  In most dogs, treating these areas with a definitive dose of radiation usually results in moderate to severe short-term side effects which can last for up to two weeks after the last radiation treatment.  Most dogs, and some cats, treated in this manner are in a significant degree of pain or discomfort during this time.  With recent advances in pain medications it is possible to get these patients through their treatment, but for many pet owners and their animals treating a nasal tumor has been a very difficult process and many animals may not get treated because of these side effects.

    With the advent of newer radiation technologies this has changed.  Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is a newer radiation technique that is becoming available in veterinary medicine to treat difficult tumors like nasal tumors.   With IMRT the patient is positioned in a bite-block or similar positioning device for their radiation planning CT and every day for their radiation treatment.  This is crucial with IMRT to minimize variation in their day to day set up.  Using a three dimensional treatment planning computer radiation beams are aimed at the tumor from a number of different directions so that the radiation can approach from all sides.  The radiation planning is done using what is known as inverse planning.  Instead of telling the computer what beams to use for treatment, the radiation oncologist tells the computer what dose they want to deliver to the tumor as well as the maximum dose allowed to be delivered to the normal tissues.  The treatment planning computer then determines how to deliver the best dose to the tumor while blocking the critical normal tissues.  It does this by taking advantage of multiple leaves up in the head of the radiation machine which are used to deliver different doses of radiation to different parts of the field.

    For dogs with nasal tumors this means that the radiation can be directed to the tumor and the dose to the normal tissues is minimal.  Dogs who are being treated with IMRT usually have small areas of ulceration in their mouths and the skin on their nose, but most of the normal tissues have only mild changes.  Also, although there is limited data so far, the risk of long term side effects such as cataracts will likely be low.


    Dr. John Farrelly – The Veterinary Cancer Center

    March 2013