An accelerator to fight cancer in animals

 

The American Bulldog puppy Bandito was only 4 months old when he was diagnosed with a papilliferous squamous cell carcinoma, one of several cancers of the oral cavity. Tumors that unfortunately occur rather frequently in dogs.

Such a tumor is normally treated surgically, removing not only the tumor but often the upper or lower jaw bone as well. In a young dog like Bandito this would have led to many problems in the future.

Fortunately, Bandito was able to undergo a radiotherapy process. The tumor was treated successfully and Bandito's jaw spared!

 

In some cancers, radiation (with a linear accelerator) is the only way to treat cancer effectively. Radiation (radiotherapy) is particularly important for cancers that cannot be (completely) removed by surgery.

To be able to perform radiotherapy and thus be able to offer all treatment options for cancer in animals, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine purchased a linear accelerator in 2009 and set up the necessary infrastructure, including a special bunker. This accelerator has been operational since 2010. From that moment on, the faculty was the only place in the Netherlands where animals can go for radiation with a linear accelerator against cancer. This is still the case.

 

A new accelerator

 

In 2019, the linear accelerator was due to be replaced; a very expensive undertaking that the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine could not have afforded by itself. As a result, animals with cancer could no longer have been treated with radiotherapy in the Netherlands.

To prevent this, the firm Elekta, the UMC Utrecht, the LUMC Leiden, Stichting Het Wzame Dier, Stichting Abri voor Dieren, Stichting D.O.G. and Stichting DierenLot joined forces. Thanks to their support and commitment, a linear accelerator has been in place since September 2020.

 

Treatment with a linear accelerator

 

A standard treatment with a linear accelerator in human patients often requires no fewer than 35 irradiations. In animals, that number has been reduced to 16 times over the past few years, with effectiveness remaining the same, but decreasing side effects.

Still, radiotherapy remains very stressful for the patient. That is why, in human radiotherapy, work is now underway to treat patients with fewer irradiations at a higher dosage, in order to limit the side effects even further. However, considering animals have to be sedated every time they are placed in the accelerator, the fewer treatment units required, the better. 

Thanks to the new accelerator, including advanced software, our veterinarians are able to better target the radiation and thus decrease the amount of radiation units, from 16 to 10 times per treatment. That way, they're able to continously improve treatment options while also safeguarding animal welfare. 

 

 

Will you help?

 

We are extremely happy and grateful to have been gifted this new accelerator. At the same time, though, we're looking towards the future ...

In a few years' time we want to move towards a system that allows us to link a CT scanner directly to the accelerator. We'd be able to irradiate even more accurately, thus requiring even fewer treatment units.

Support us today. Your donation will help to improve treatments for animals cancer patients.