Animal Cancer Centre

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

Our Animal Cancer Centre is a comprehensive oncology service for dogs, cats and small animals.

We offer teams in medical oncology (specialist in diagnosis and chemotherapy), radiation oncology (specialist in treating cancer with radiation) and surgical oncology (specialists in tumour removal and reconstructive techniques). The comprehensive part of our Animal Cancer Centre means that your pet or patient will always receive the most appropriate treatment. Experts in each field will be consulted to determine what role their expertise could play in your pets’ treatment. Our experts are also involved in research and clinical trials meaning we also help advance new and innovative treatment options for pets with cancer.

1. Medical Oncology – Animal Cancer Treatment​

2. Radiation Oncology – Animal Cancer Treatment​

3. Which Tumours We Treat

4. Chip’s Story 

5. What Animals Can Be Treated For Cancer

6. Radiation Therapy Treatment Process

7. Reasons To Use SASH

8. What Makes Radiation At SASH Special?

9. The Oncology Teams

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.

There are only two animal radiation facilities in the whole of Australia and SASH has built the newest centre with the latest Linear Accelerator.
Helping to evolve Australia’s animal medicine.

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, Radiation Therapists Rachel Foong and Olivia Mudie, and Registered Veterinary Nurse Jennifer Cowan – they provide outstanding patient care, in a welcoming and easily accessible facility.

Because SASH has Medical, Radiation and Surgical Oncology Services, we are truly a comprehensive cancer centre offering a multi-disciplinary/integrative service.

Dog receiving radiation therapy

Which Tumours We Treat

Radiation therapy can be used effectively for many cancer treatments. The Linear accelerator delivers high energy radiation to a specific area in the body which results in DNA damage and cancer cell death. Or use this paragraph instead? Radiation Therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays to treat cancer. In some instances, it may also be used in the treatment of some benign conditions. It is a highly-localised therapy, which means it affects only the part of the body where the radiation is targeted. Whilst radiation is directed at the tumour specifically, a small amount of healthy tissue will also be irradiated to ensure that any microscopic disease will also be treated. All efforts are made to design a treatment which is in the best interest of your beloved pet, maximising the impact on the tumour and minimising the effect on all healthy tissues and organs.
Radiation works by damaging the DNA within a cell. This damage interferes with the cell’s cycle, limiting its ability to grow and divide, ultimately leading to the cell’s death. Over time, this interruption will result in tumour control, shrinkage or eradication.

The types of Cancers that respond to radiation therapy include:

– Acanthomatous ameloblastoma
– Adrenal
– Anal Sac Adenocarcinoma
– Arthritis (refractory)
– Bladder/Prostate
– Brain and Pituitary
– Carcinomas (e.g. skin)
– Heart tumours
– Dermal and Subcutaneous hemangiosarcoma
– Infiltrative lipomas
– Injection site sarcoma
– Hepatocellular carcinoma
– Lymphomas (nasal or localized e.g. epitheliotropic)
– Melanoma
– Meningoencephalitis
– Multilobular osteochondrosarcoma
– Nasal tumours
– Osteosarcoma
– Salivary mucocoeles
– Soft tissue sarcomas (oral and dermal/subcutaneous)
– Squamous cell carcinoma
– Thymomas
– Thyroid carcinomas
– Tonsillar tumours

At SASH there are 3 treatment aims; Definitive, Stereotactic and Palliative. Definitive treatment is when RT is delivered with the intent of long-term control. Stereotactic treatments can have a definitive or palliative intent depending on the type of cancer but involve fewer sessions. Palliative treatment is usually intended to alleviate pain and make the patient more comfortable to increase their quality of life.

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

“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

What Animals Can Be Treated For Cancer

All cancers can be treated at SASH. We treat all companion animal pets, most commonly this means cats and dogs but we also work closely with our exotic vet service to treat birds, rabbits and all kinds of animals.

Radiation Therapy Treatment Process

All patients are assessed by the radiation oncologist. A CT scan is performed to organise and calculate the tailored radiation dose for each patient. The CT can also be used to check for any spread of the cancer. Usually, a few days are needed between the CT scan day and the start day of radiation treatment.
A definitive radiation treatment course is usually between 10 and 20 treatments or doses (daily Mon-Fri).
Stereotactic treatments are much shorter and usually consist of 3-5 treatments (Mon/Wed/Fri).

A palliative course is once a week for 4–6 weeks (however can occasionally be Mon–Fri).

RT treatments time is between 15-35 minutes. RT in animals differs slightly to human treatments as they must be anaesthetised. Anaesthesia is required as the patients need to be specifically positioned and kept completely still during their treatment, to ensure the treatment is delivered accurately and safely. Prior to every treatment a cone beam CT scan (CBCT) is performed to align the patient for their treatment.

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.

Learn About Our Lovely RT Patient Tyson

Watch Tyson’s journey ‘A Typical Radiation Day‘. 

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

Medical Oncology
Veronoka Langova
Sandra Nguyen
Penny Brown
Johanna Todd (registrar)
Pauline Chan (intern)
Grace Corrigan (senior nurse)
Katherine Lynch (nurse)
Laura Kingham (nurse)

Radiation Oncology
Neil Christensen
Jennifer Cowan (nurse)
Rachel Foong (radiation therapist)
Olivia Mudie (radiation therapist)

Surgical Oncology
Martin Havlicek
Tristram Bennett
Amanda Miller
Andrew Marchevsky

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