Pinpoint radiation has only been available for human, but now North Carolina State University’s vet school is one of the few facilities in the United States to offer the procedure for pets.
Alan and Mary Button were referred to N.C. State’s College of Veterinary Medicine after they noticed an indentation on the left side of their 12-year-old dog Scout’s forehead.
“They did the MRI and said, ‘Yeah, we see the tumor,'” Alan Button recalled.
Mary added, “[Alan’s] grandmother was celebrating her 105th birthday with all of the family the next day in upstate New York. We didn’t make it there because it was just so devastating.”
Scout’s brain tumor was inoperable and couldn’t be treated with chemotherapy. But radiation oncologist Dr. Michael Nolan was able to treat Scout because of Varian’s Novalis Tx, a robotic radiation machine that can zero in on the tumor.
“If you think of a tumor like grape in a bowl of Jello, old forms of radiation would take an ice cream scoop to remove that grape,” Nolan explained. “[Novalis Tx] allows us to take the grape out without taking any of the Jello out.”
Nolan said traditional radiation would damage tissue and organs around a tumor. But the Novalis Tx is able to treat just the tumor.
“Treating a tumor like [Scout’s] with an unfocused form of radiation would involve irradiating most of the head,” Nolan said.
The owners of an 11-year-old silky terrier, Kai, traveled from Ohio in hopes that the machine will be able to treat his prostate cancer.
“This radiation therapy is targeted to just the prostate, so you can really deliver a lot of potent anti-cancer treatment specifically to that site,” Nolan explained.
Kai’s treatments took 5 weeks and cost almost $10,000. But he is going home closer to being cancer free and Nolan said he shouldn’t have any side effects.
The radiation treatments are not just for dogs. Novalis Tx can treat an animal up to 450 pounds.
The equipment cost $2.5 million but was paid for mostly with private donations.
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