Apr 282010
Authors: Jordyn Dahl

CSU’s veterinary hospital is the first vet group in the world to successfully save a cat’s limb with a new cancer treatment.

The treatment, stereotactic radiation therapy, was critical in treating the animal’s cancer of a bone in its rear left leg, or osteosarcoma, and in saving that leg in March, according to Steven Withrow, director of CSU’s Animal Cancer Center.

The cat, Cyrano, was brought to CSU from Virginia by his owner Sandy Lerner because CSU is the only facility in the world that offers SRT treatment for animals. SRT is a developing technology for both humans and animals that allows cancer specialists to deliver radiation directly to the cancer without damaging healthy, surrounding tissue.

“With the SRT you can precisely sculpt and deliver the dose to just kill the tumor,” Withrow said.

Veterinarians had originally planned on amputating the limb, but due to Cyrano’s excess 28-pound weight, Lerner opted to go ahead with the radiation treatment despite its cost, which is approximately $5,000.

The procedure has been completed on 42 dogs with the successful removal of tumors, although leg fractures are said to be one of the side effects.

Cancer specialists use a CT scan to pinpoint the location of a tumor and use a combination of image guidance and multiple radiation beams to deliver the therapy.

The animals are put under anesthesia and positioned so the dosage is delivered only to the tumor with the healthy tissue being spared.

The machine that allows the doctors to deliver such an accurate dosage was brought in just two years ago, and pet owners from all over the country have come in to have the procedure performed on their animals.

“It’s the only machine of its type in the veterinary society. We are treating a couple hundred patients each year from all over the country,” said Susan LaRue, radiation oncologist for the center. “Hotels in the area are allowing pets to stay in their hotels, so our clients have a place to stay. It’s been a wonderful community effort.”

The procedure was successfully performed on a bear earlier this year and has been completed on cows and horses as well, Withrow said.

One of the advantages CSU has with its program is its employment of Fred Harman, a clinical medical physicist who previously worked with SRT technology on humans. His experience has aided the team in improving the treatment and is the only medical physicist in the world currently working on animals.

SRT is used on humans who have brain tumors and other forms of cancer but is not yet used on human osteosarcomas. The team is working with researchers at
the University of Colorado and in Texas to develop this technology for humans.

“I think, potentially, there is a role for this in regards to limb sparing in humans, especially in young children who are prone to getting osteosarcoma,” said Jamie Custis, the radiation oncologist resident for Cyrano’s case.

Staff writer Jordyn Dahl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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