Animal Cancer Centre

Vet Oncologists providing cancer treatment for dogs, cats and small animals

Looking for information on available cancer treatment for dogs, cats, rabbits, reptiles and other small animals? If so read on to find out everything you need to know about our animal cancer treatment options and how SASH is helping pets and their families live their best life. 

  1. Treatable tumour types
  2. Radiation therapy treatment process
  3. What animals can be treated
  4. Reasons to use SASH
  5. Medical Oncology
  6. Radiation Oncology
  7. The Oncology team
  8. Contact us

“During the time Chip was undergoing treatment, you could visually see the size of the cancer decrease and melt away which was just simply remarkable!”

Dr Sandra Nguyen

Treatable Tumour Types

Radiation therapy can be effectively used for many cancers. It delivers high energy radiation to a specific area in the body which results in DNA damage and cancer cell death.

Stereotactic treatment means higher does of radiation therapy, pinpointed to the cancer more effectively, resulting in shorter treatment time.

Not all cancers respond to this type of treatment and may require the longer form of definitive treatment. Cancers that respond to radiation therapy include:

  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • Mast cell tumours
  • Oral tumours
  • Nasal tumours
  • Anal sac tumours
  • Brain and spinal cord tumours
  • Benign conditions such as acanthomatous epulis 
 
Treatment aim can be either curative, as for an incompletely excised soft tissue sarcoma, or palliative, for example where limb amputation for an osteosarcoma is not suitable.
Animal cancer treatment on a dog

Chip's Story - Dog Cancer Treatment

Chip’s owners noticed that he had started to develop a large swelling on the top of his head and immediately became extremely concerned. Chip first visited his local vet at Pittwater Animal Hospital, who then referred him onto our wonderful Medical Oncology department.

Chip's Story

Radiation Therapy Treatment Process

A definitive radiation treatment course is usually between 10 and 20 fractions or doses (daily Mon-Fri). Streotactic treatments are much shorter and usually consist of 3-5 fractions.

A palliative course may be once a week for 4 weeks. Individual fractions last between 20-45 minutes and involve anaesthetising the patient and precise positioning on the linear accelerator couch, which often includes pretreatment imaging using the CT within the linear accelerator.

What Animals Can Be Treated For Cancer

The following animals are good candidates for cancer treatment using radiation therapy:

  • Dogs / Canine
  • Cats / Feline

Reasons To Use SASH

Just some of the reasons include:

  • The most up-to-date technologically advanced machine available
  • The ability to provide sterotactic, definitive and palliative radiation with the one machine
  • On-site treatment, with no need for transport to and from the facility reducing the risk to recovering patients
  • Ability for patients to be treated as a ‘day procedure’ or to board for the length of their treatment course
  • Ability to treat very small areas with minimal effects on surrounding normal tissues
  • The ability to treat very large or multiple areas with varying energies
  • Faster treatment times = shorter anaesthesia times for our veterinary patients
  • Continuous dose monitoring via on board imaging and positioning devices to ensure that there is minimal damage to non-target structures
 
The SASH radiation oncology service is also special due to our incredible on site team that includes a Radiation Oncologist, Radiation Therapist and dedicated Radiation Nurse. We also have a great physics team ensuring that all plans meet the standards expected in human hospitals.

Medical Oncology - Animal Cancer Treatment

A diagnosis of cancer in your pet can be a very difficult and emotional time, but there are now many treatment options for pets with cancer available through the SASH Oncology service.

Our first priority is to maintain quality of life and ensure your pet remains happy and comfortable for as long as possible. Chemotherapy can be a difficult experience for people but for our pets it is very different. 

The Oncology staff at SASH make sure that each appointment and treatment is as quick as possible and each patient receives the individual care and attention they deserve. Although side effects from chemotherapy are possible, they are rare, and the SASH Oncology department work closely with our patient’s owners and referring veterinarians if side effects do occur.

Similarly, to a cancer diagnosis in people, pets can get various types and subtypes of cancers, which respond differently to a variety of treatments. This means that with each pet, the Oncologists at SASH will develop a treatment plan specifically tailored to them.

Some common types of cancer diagnosed in veterinary patients include lymphoma, osteosarcoma, mast cell tumours and soft tissue sarcomas (just to name a few).

The first step in cancer treatment is the diagnosis. Depending on the type of cancer, procedures such as fine needle aspirates, tissue biopsies and immunohistochemistry or PCR tests may help to further characterise the individual patient’s cancer.

The second step is to assess for spread, also known and metastasis. This is referred to as staging. Many cancers (such as osteosarcoma, melanoma, mammary cancer and high mast cell tumours) will to the local lymph nodes, lungs and liver and the presence or absence of spread (metastasis) can be helpful to determine prognosis and appropriate treatment options.

After diagnosis, the treatment plan for your pet will then depend on the type of cancer, what stage it is at, pathological results and your personal wishes. Options may include palliation, chemotherapy (injectable vs oral tablets), surgery or radiation therapy (radiotherapy). 

Sometimes, cancer is best treated with combinations of these treatment options. The Oncologists at SASH have the ability to work closely with surgical specialists and radiation oncologists to provide a multidisciplinary co-operative approach for the care of patients.

It is important to know that chemotherapy in animals is different from people. Side effects like vomiting and diarrhoea are minimised because of the drugs and doses used by our specialist oncologists, registrars and residents. 

With most chemotherapy plans, side effects if they occur are mild and resolve quickly and hair loss does not commonly occur. Newer therapies such as immunotherapies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors are revolutionising the treatment of cancer in humans and these therapies are becoming more common in the treatment of pets with cancer. 

The most recent veterinary cancer advancements include the development of a xenogenic melanoma vaccine (ONCEPT) for dogs with melanoma and the tyrosine kinase inhibitors (Toceranib/Palladia) for treatment of mast cell tumours, metastatic thyroid and anal sac cancer and other metastatic cancers in dogs and cats. 

Both of these treatment options are both currently available through SASH. At this time, a state of the art linear accelerator for the radiation treatment of pets is being installed at SASH North Ryde. This machine will have the ability to deliver definitive radiation, stereotactic radiation and palliative radiation to veterinary patients and will benefit patients with most types of cancer.

Some oncology treatment plans require you to bring your pet to the hospital but other oral chemotherapy treatments can be given at home. During the treatment, we will need to monitor your pet’s blood cells and internal organ function, as they can be affected by medication, but we can discuss whether this can be performed by your local vet. 

Visits to the SASH Oncology department can be scheduled Monday – Saturday in both the morning and afternoon. Most procedures and treatments are able to be performed within a couple of hours or within the day.

Rosemary recovering from Radiation Therapy

Radiation Oncology - Animal Cancer Treatment

SASH Sydney has installed the first linear accelerator with stereotactic capability, specifically for pets in Australia. This is consistent with our aim to offer advanced and outstanding oncology care to all veterinary patients. 

No longer will pets have to travel long distances under the cloak of secrecy or in the darkness of night, to private human facilities to get this advanced treatment.

The architecturally-designed and Radiation Service compliant facility uses a brand new Elekta Synergy linear accelerator to offer some of the most up-to-date radiation therapy available to pets anywhere in the world. The team includes Radiation Oncologist Neil Christensen, Medical Oncologist Sandra Nguyen, Radiation Therapist Sonia Phelps and Veterinary Nurse Jennifer Cowan – they will provide outstanding patient care in a welcoming and easily accessible facility.

Now that SASH offers Radiation therapy, we are truly a comprehensive cancer centre offering a multi-disciplinary/integrative service. The team works alongside our Medical Oncology team of Veronika Langova and Sandra Nguyen (oncologists), Sophia Tzannes (internist), Penny Brown (registrar) and Johanna Todd (resident) that currently provide the trusted and reliable 6 day a week service which many referring vets currently rely upon. 

Both oncology teams will work together to determine the best treatment solution based on type of cancer and the staging. The aim, as always in all cancer treatment, is to prolong survival whilst ensuring pain and general wellness is maintained as much as possible.

Dog receiving radiation therapy

What Are The Details Of The Radiation Treatment?

A definitive radiation treatment course is usually between 10 and 20 fractions or doses (daily Mon-Fri). Stereotactic treatments are much shorter and usually consist of 3-5 fractions. 

A palliative course may be once a week for 4 weeks. Individual fractions last between 20-45 minutes and involve anaesthetising the patient and precise positioning on the linear accelerator couch, which often includes pretreatment imaging using the CT within the linear accelerator.

What Makes Radiation At SASH So Special

The machine installed is a brand new Elekta Synergy Agility Linear Accelerator with stereotactic capability and is the most up-to-date, technologically advanced machine available. It has many other advantages for treating cancer patients including:

  • The ability to provide stereotactic, definitive and palliative radiation with the one machine
  • On-site treatment, with no need for transport to and from the facility reducing the risk to recovering patients
  • Patients can be treated as a ‘day procedure’ or to board for the length of their treatment course
  • It can treat very small areas with minimal effects on surrounding normal tissue
  • It can treat very large or multiple areas with varying energies
  • Faster treatment times = shorter anaesthesia times for our veterinary patients
  • Continuous dose monitoring via on board imaging and positioning devices to ensure that there is minimal damage to non-target structures

The SASH Radiation Oncology service is also special due to our incredible on site team that involves a Radiation Oncologist, Radiation Therapist and dedicated Radiation Nurse. We also have a great physics team ensuring that all plans meet the standards expected in human hospitals.

The Oncology Teams

  • Dr Neil Christensen
  • Dr Sandra Nguyen
  • Jennifer Cowan

The team works alongside our Medical Oncology team of Veronika Langova and Sandra Nguyen (oncologists), Sophia Tzannes (internist), Penny Brown (registrar) and Johanna Todd (resident) that currently provide the trusted and reliable 6 day a week service which many referring vets currently rely upon. 

Both oncology teams will work together to determine the best treatment solution based on the type of cancer and the staging. The aim, as always in all cancer treatment, is to prolong survival whilst ensuring pain and general wellness is maintained as much as possible.

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Contact Us

If you require treatment for your pet, we would love to hear from you. Simply click on the button below and get in touch with our friendly team.