Veterinary Oncology: Medical & Radiation Therapy for Pets

Veterinary OncologyAt Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, we treat your pets as we would our own. We strive to provide a comprehensive approach to each patient's care. This means that the medical oncologist who is assigned to your pet will assess your pet's health and well-being throughout the entire course of treatment—from diagnosis through follow-up care—to ensure that all medical needs are being met, and your pet's comfort and quality of life are at the forefront of all decisions.

About Cancer in Pets

Pets are living longer, healthier lives thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, preventive care, and nutrition. As the lifespan of pets increases, however, so does their risk for developing cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is becoming more common in dogs and cats, and the number of cases continues to rise. The good news is, many cancers can be successfully treated and the outcomes are often positive. Seeking treatment from a veterinary cancer specialist as soon as a pet is diagnosed with cancer has been shown to lead to an improved outcome—much like with humans. In fact, advances in veterinary oncology parallel those in human medicine, and today there are many options available for treatment. It is important to remember that while cancer generally affects older animals, they are often able to tolerate many of the same treatments as younger animals, bringing new hope to pet owners for a positive experience.

If your pet is diagnosed with or suspected of having cancer, we recommend that you schedule a visit with a veterinary medical oncologist who will create a total program of expert care to achieve the best possible outcome.

A Diagnosis of Cancer Doesn’t Always Mean Goodbye

Early detection and consultation with a veterinary cancer specialist leads to positive outcomes in most cases. Remember that cancer is not just one disease; there are hundreds of different tumor types and they all respond uniquely to treatment. Even with the most aggressive cancers, we can help to provide comfort, pain control, and support for you and your pet.

Now at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital: the Trilogy® linear accelerator-one of the most advanced systems for cancer treatment available today.

See the Radiation tab below to learn more.

Red Bank Veterinary Hospital now offers a new cancer drug used to treat lymphoma in dogs.

TANOVEA-CA1 was recently made available to licensed veterinarians in the United States. Prior to the drug’s release, the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital Oncology Department participated in a clinical trial to help monitor the effects of this injectable medication on canine patients with lymphoma. Lymphoma is a malignant cancer of the lymphoid system, which plays an important role in helping the body's immune system defend itself against infection from bacteria and viruses. It is one of the most common cancers seen in dogs and accounts for 10-20% of all cancers affecting dogs. Lymphoma is classified according to the location in which the cancer begins. For example, lymph nodes, liver, spleen, gastrointestinal track and skin.

TANOVEA-CA1 is the first and only new animal drug available for this type of cancer, and conditionally approved by the FDA pending a full demonstration of effectiveness. It works by targeting and attacking rapidly dividing cancer cells. It was found to be effective in both newly diagnosed cases of lymphoma as well as in patients who have relapsed demonstrating anti-tumor activity in both naïve and relapsed (recurring) canine lymphoma cases.

TANOVEA-CA1 is administered intravenously every three weeks for up to five doses and is generally well-tolerated. The most frequently reported adverse reactions included decreased white blood cell count, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased or loss of appetite, weight loss, decreased activity level, and skin problems.

Dogs with lymphoma may display a variety of symptoms including swollen glands (lymph nodes), loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, lethargy, and increased thirst or urination.

For more information on TANOVEA-CA1, contact the RBVH Oncology Department at (732) 747-3636.

Electrochemotherapy

What is Electrochemotherapy?

Electrochemotherapy allows for a small dose of chemotherapy to be given locally (administered into the tumor or scar) or systemically (intravenous injection) with minimal side effects. Then, electrical pulses are applied to make the cell membrane of the tumor cells more porous. This allows a larger amount of the chemotherapy drug to enter the tumor and increases the likelihood of killing the cancerous cells. Electrochemotherapy may help chemotherapy work 70 to 1000 times more effectively.

Treatable Tumors

  • Oral Tumors Adenocarcinoma of the Skin Sarcomas Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Skin
  • Mast Cell Tumors
  • Fibrosarcomas
  • Perianal Carcinomas
  • Localized Lymphoma
  • Periorbital Tumors (tumors around the eye)
  • Papillomas Nasal Planum Tumors Melanomas

Why Electrochemotherapy?

Electrochemotherapy works best with residual disease after a tumor has been removed surgically, but this therapy can also be used with some tumors that cannot be removed surgically. This treatment option provides a more targeted approach at decreasing the tumor size, while minimizing the systemic toxicity to the rest of the body.

Administration

Electrochemotherapy is administered during an outpatient visit. Depending on the tumor’s response to treatment, 2-3 treatments may be required.

  • Patients arrive in the morning
  • Patients are either heavily sedated or anesthetized
  • Chemotherapy is administered directly into the tumor or scar, or intravenously
  • After 5 minutes, electrical pulses are administered; the entire procedure takes approximately 20 minutes

Patients are sent home toward the end of the day.

Side Effects

Potential side effects following electrochemotherapy administration are minimal. These may include:

  • Localized heat and mild redness
  • Itching at the site treated
  • Degranulation of Mast Cell Tumors
  • Swelling
  • Mild discomfort at the site treated

Local chemotherapy administration has a much lower risk of vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, bone marrow suppression, etc. as compared to traditional chemotherapy.

Outcome of Electrochemotherapy

Your veterinary oncologist will decide if your pet is a good candidate for electrochemotherapy based on evaluation of the tumor, tumor type, and general health. Electrochemotherapy can be used to treat tumors that cannot be removed with surgery or after surgery when the tumor is incompletely removed. Outcomes of electrochemotherapy can be compared with traditional radiation therapy, while electrochemotherapy is more cost effective in comparison.

Medical

The RBVH team of veterinary medical oncologists diagnose and manage the treatment of cancer patients by providing evaluation and consultation, diagnostic and treatment planning, and a wide variety of both medical and non-medical therapies. These therapies may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, nutritional assessment, and integrative therapy. The treatment plans are specific to each patient and range from definitive cancer treatment to pain relief focused treatments. This degree of individualized, comprehensive patient care is made possible utilizing the expertise of the wide array of specialists working alongside our medical oncologists on a daily basis.

Our medical oncologists are dedicated to staying current with novel therapies and the advancement of science through oncology-related research studies. Our team is part of the Animal Cancer Institute, a co-operative oncology group, and active members of the Veterinary Cancer Society, ensuring our patients benefit from cutting-edge diagnostics and treatments.

Read how we keep cancer patients safe.

Radiation

Radiation therapy is the use of high energy beams of radiation to treat tumors. It is used to treat a variety of cancers including tumors of the skin, nose, brain, mouth, bones and gastrointestinal tumors. Our radiation oncologist has extensive training and experience using radiation therapy alone to treat tumors, or in combination with chemotherapy or other immunotherapy to induce a greater tumor response. We utilize advanced imaging modalities including CT and MRI to help visualize the tumor and its surrounding anatomy, as well as state-of-the-art 3 dimensional treatment planning equipment. Patients are treated with a linear accelerator which focuses a beam of radiation precisely where the tumor is located.

RBVH in Tinton Falls is one of the only practices in the region to offer the Varian Trilogy® linear accelerator, and one of just a few in the U.S. set up specifically for veterinary use. This advanced technology allows us to deliver higher doses of stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) with remarkable accuracy, reducing the number of sessions required for treatment and anesthesia, and virtually eliminating all side effects. Our technology brings new hope to cancer treatment.

INTENSITY-MODULATED RADIATION THERAPY (IMRT)

  • Increases the radiation dose to the tumor, while decreasing dose to normal tissues
  • Allows treatment of multiple sites while sparing tissues and organs in between
  • Allows treatment of tumors not historically treated with conventional radiation therapy

Innovative method of radiation delivery, whereby a dynamic multileaf collimator allows for the precise and accurate delivery of radiation to the tumor, while avoiding accumulating radiation dose in adjacent normal tissues and organs

  • Provides pain relief
  • Minimizes side effects
  • Offers improved quality of life
  • Consists of 15-20 treatments

STEREOTACTIC RADIATION THERAPY (SRT)

  • Fewer side effects versus conventional radiation therapy
  • Fewer number of anesthetic events required for treatment
  • Curative intent radiation doses given within 1 week
  • Consists of 1 -5 treatments

CONVENTIONAL RADIATION THERAPY

  • Definitive radiation therapy used to treat multiple tumor types
  • Consists of 12-20 treatments

What is a board certified veterinary radiation oncologist?

Board certified veterinary radiation oncologists specialize in the treatment of cancer patients using radiation as the main modality of treatment as opposed to a medical oncologist who uses chemotherapy. In addition to completing undergraduate training and four years of veterinary school, board-certified radiation oncologists are similar to their human medical counterparts in that they have completed an internship and then a radiation oncology residency program (an additional 3-5 years training). This is followed by a rigorous examination to achieve board-certification status from the American College of Veterinary Radiology; which oversees Radiology (diagnostic imaging) and Radiation Oncology (radiation therapy). Passing this examination grants the status of Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Radiology (DACVR). The area of concentration is then placed in parenthesis after that title. For example, DACVR (RO). Radiation oncologists work closely with other specialists such as surgical oncologists, general and board certified surgeons, internists, and medical oncologists.

INTEGRATIVE ONCOLOGY

This approach combines conventional treatments with complementary therapies in order to care for a pet’s mind, body, and spirit.

Acupuncture involves the placement of tiny needles at specific locations that encourages the body to heal itself. For oncology patients, it helps promote an improved quality of life and helps minimize chemotherapy and radiation side-effects such as diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and poor appetite.

Chinese massage helps maintain or improve both physical and emotional well-being in pets. The release of endorphins created by massage causes a reduction in pain, especially muscle and joint discomfort, and can be a compassionate and effective therapeutic intervention for senior pets. Massage of specific acupressure points can also be performed to continue promoting healing and treatment.

Food therapy incorporates our clinical nutritionists to develop an individualized diet plan that will help ensure your dog or cat is receiving optimal nutrition during and after cancer treatment. Our clinical nutritionists can help decide which commercial diet is best for your pet, provide unbiased recommendations on dietary supplements, and develop a recipe for a home-prepared diet, if needed. Principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine can also be incorporated into diet formulations to promote healing through nutrition.

Chinese herbal medicine is based on the use of plants or plant extracts to treat illness and promote bodily functions. Herbal formulations may be prescribed to the veterinary cancer patient to manage side effects of chemotherapy or radiation, decrease pain, enhance the immune system or for their anticancer properties.

SURGICAL ONCOLOGY

Sometimes, part of your pet’s oncology treatment plan will involve surgery to remove as much of the cancerous tumor as possible, before or after chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Our oncology department works alongside board-certified surgeons to recommend the best treatment approach and timing of surgery in hopes of providing the best outcome for our patients.

CLINICAL STUDIES

Our doctors participate in a variety of clinical studies that provide cancer patients with access to new or promising treatments and therapies that may help advance cancer treatment in animals and help gain insight on certain diseases. Qualifying patients are monitored carefully and strict adherence to the treatment protocol is necessary. Evaluation of the patient depends upon study guidelines, but generally involves visits to our hospital.

PALLIATIVE CARE

This type of care utilizes traditional and non-traditional resources for treating cancer and increasing a pet’s quality of life when the therapeutic goal is not to cure the disease but rather to relieve the symptoms. Pain management and quality of life counseling, as well as information on hospice and pet loss, can be discussed during this time.

PET LOSS SUPPORT

Red Bank Veterinary Hospital hosts a pet loss support group comprised of other pet owners who understand the grief associated with losing a pet. This service is available to you at no charge. The group also provides assistance to pet owners experiencing anticipatory grief, the feeling that occurs prior to the actual death of a companion animal. This type of grief is frequently experienced by those caring for a chronically ill, terminally ill, or senior pet.

Podcast

Listen as Dr. Kendra Pope of our oncology team discusses how to combine traditional cancer treatments with integrative options such as acupuncture. This was recorded during her February 20, 2016 appearance on "Your Pet Matters", 107.7 The Bronc.