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GAME-CHANGING NEW CANCER TREATMENT NOW AVAILABLE TO PETS IN WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) is a noninvasive therapy intended to improve both long-term survival and quality of life for pets with cancer

 

Cancer. Just hearing the word is enough to make you cringe.

Most of us have been touched by the insidious disease in some form or fashion. Whether it has afflicted you personally or somebody you love, we hear the C-word far too often.

Fortunately, we also live in an age of amazing technology and progress. Doctors can do things today that were unheard of a decade ago. Clinical researchers are hard at work in search of a cure, determined to tip the scales in the fight against cancer. While we’re not there quite yet, advances in medicine continue to evolve at a rapid pace. A cancer diagnosis is not necessarily the death sentence it used to be.

Now, thanks to a new treatment called stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and a progressive cancer care provider called PetCure Oncology, that is true not only for people – but for pets too.

Veterinarians and pet owners alike are beginning to hear about SRS for pets, which is coming to Western Pennsylvania this February. While SRS has become an integral part of human oncology over the last few decades, it has only recently become available to animals. Currently, the closest provider of SRS for pets is nearly 300 miles away in Cincinnati.

That will change in February, when SRS will become available locally at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center (PVSEC) at 807 Camp Horne Road in Pittsburgh. PetCure Oncology and PVSEC recently formed a partnership to combine PetCure’s expertise in SRS with PVSEC’s existing radiation oncology department. Throw in a machine upgrade and PVSEC’s full staff of veterinary specialists, and residents of Western Pennsylvania will be among only a handful of pet owners in the country that have access to cancer care for pets in line with what is already available to people.

An advanced form of radiation therapy, SRS represents a game-changing option for many cancer patients with tumors. The benefits over convention radiation therapy are both significant and numerous.

Conventional radiation therapy typically requires 18-30 treatment sessions and targets an area of the body where a tumor is known to exist. In contrast, thanks to unprecedented technology and precision, SRS requires only 1-3 treatment sessions and delivers high-dose radiation directly to the tumor, targeting the deadly mass while mostly – or event completely – sparing the surrounding healthy tissue.

Many tumors that were previously considered “untreatable” can now be targeted through SRS – noninvasively, with no incisions or sutures. Tumors in sensitive locations such as the brain, spinal column, lungs and prostate are too dangerous for conventional radiation therapy because of the risk to the healthy anatomy surrounding the tumor. The sub-millimeter precision of SRS, on the other hand, is capable of delivering high-dose radiation directly to the tumor without damaging those critical structures.

Instead of weeks of veterinary appointments and radiation treatments, SRS patients receive their entire treatment course in 1-3 days. Including an initial CT scan required for treatment planning, a patient will undergo no more than four anesthetic events – an 80-95% reduction compared to conventional radiation therapy. And because healthy tissue is mostly spared, the nasty side effects commonly associated with radiation are rare.

While every case is different, most patients experience an immediate improvement to their quality of life and are able to resume normal activity upon completing treatment.

Ali, an 11-year-old poodle, had to be wheeled in for treatment because of a spinal tumor that was causing paralysis to his hind legs. Three days later, he walked out of the hospital independently. Baci, a 13-year-old dog from New Jersey, was in a comatose state before undergoing treatment for a brain tumor. Within four months of SRS, he was back to winning medals at obedience competitions.

It may not be common knowledge that the incidence of cancer in pets is similar to that in humans. Statistics tell us that approximately 12 million dogs and cats will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Many of their owners, devastated by the news, will be told there is nothing they can do.

PetCure Oncology is telling the world that is no longer the case.

PetCure Oncology was created in 2014 by a group of pet owners with experience establishing SRS centers in human medicine. Their mission was simple. PetCure set out to take the same progressive treatment options available to human cancer patients and make them available to pets.

That mission grew out of a very personal experience for Scott Milligan, the CEO of PetCure Oncology.

When his family dog, Juliette, was diagnosed with a nasal tumor a few years back, Scott was given the same treatment options that most pet owners get after a cancer diagnosis: surgery, chemotherapy, or conventional radiation therapy. As is often the case, surgery was ruled out as too invasive and unlikely to completely remove the tumor. That left chemotherapy and conventional radiation therapy, each of which was expected to lead to undesirable side effects and diminished quality of life because of the inevitable collateral damage caused by radiation delivered to a wide swath of the body.

His kids were devastated. His wife was devastated. And given his experience with SRS in human medicine, Scott was profoundly frustrated that he couldn’t provide his dog with a treatment option that he knew existed – and worked – for humans.

Today, Scott’s vision to provide SRS to pets with cancer has come to fruition. He joined forces with Dr. Neal Mauldin, a triple-board certified veterinary specialist and one of the leading clinicians in the world when it comes to SRS for pets. PetCure Oncology launched its first treatment center in May of 2015 and has already treated more than 500 pet patients across its four locations in Phoenix, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Clifton (NJ). PetCure’s rapidly-growing national network is intended to make SRS geographically accessible to every pet owner in the continental United States, with a lofty goal of opening 30 centers within five years.

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