Queensland first – New radiation therapy for pets with cancer

ARH Brisbane is now offering a Queensland first for our patients, stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT), which is greatly advancing cancer treatment in pets.

This new treatment allows us to reduce the dose of radiation to tissues surrounding a cancer and therefore avoid some of the typical radiation side effects such as skin irritation, nausea, pain at the radiation site and reluctance to eat.

SRT allows bigger doses to be delivered in fewer treatments, usually only three are required. This means patients only need four anaesthetics, rather than 18 to 20, making treatment easier on pet owners.

We can now effectively treat some cancers which are deemed inoperable including many brain tumours. We can also treat bone, nasal, prostatic, oral and urethral tumours.

Brown dog lying on mat in radiation machine

ARH Brisbane’s radiation program is managed by our oncology team of Dr Kathleen O’Connell (specialist oncologist), Dr Maurine Thomson (specialist oncologist) and Dr Elizabeth Morgan (oncology registrar). They work closely with radiation oncologist Dr David Lurie who introduced SRT to Australia in 2018.

“This new technology is in line with cancer treatment in the human field and so far has limited availability in the veterinary field,” Dr O’Connell said.

“Stereotactic radiation therapy is a phenomenal development as it goes to the core of the major barriers to cancer treatment – time and side effects.

“We are now able to offer a much simpler treatment plan which gives pets and owners more quality time together and is also more effective in treating certain cancers.

“With 50% of dogs and cats over the age of 10 years developing cancer, SRT will have a very real impact on many of our patients’ lives,” she said.

four people kneeling on floor with two dogs in front of themSeven year old English Sheepdog, Millie, had a large tumour in her jaw called an ameloblastoma.  This is a benign tumour that will invade the bone making it difficult to control as it becomes larger.

Millie’s tumour is highly susceptible to SRT which encouraged her owners, Marie and Tony, to choose this treatment.

Millie received SRT in December and after three treatments is now back to her old self, with her oral mass shrinking markedly. These treatments should control Millie’s tumour into the future and enable her to have a wonderful quality of life.

Brown long haired dog lying on floor with head liftedSam’s owners, Stephen and Narelle, started worrying when he wasn’t able to get up onto the couch for snuggles and run around at the park.

He underwent a CT scan which confirmed a mass on his pelvis that a biopsy diagnosed as a chondrosarcoma (a rare cancer that arises from cartilage). Our surgical oncology specialist, Dr Maurine Thomson, removed a large portion of his affected pelvis.

Sam received SRT, which combined with surgery will give him the best chance at long-term survival.  For Sam, the SRT focused radiation at the tumour site without affecting the surrounding tissue, minimising side effects while targeting residual tumour cells.

Sam is coping very well with his treatment and has had no side effects so far. In fact, at his recent recheck his owners said he is running around like a two year old.

“The Animal Referral Hospital is lucky to have Dr David Lurie, one of only two double-boarded oncology specialists in Australia, to run the oncology department in Sydney,” Dr O’Connell said.

“David was key in bringing SRT to Australia and we have worked closely with him and his team to implement SRT in Brisbane.

“We’re looking forward to growing this program and being able to help many more animals suffering from such a debilitating disease,” she said.

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