Science

Vet team claims UK first in high-tech human cancer treatment on dog

Ralph, a five-year-old Gordon Setter, was treated using technology that is said to have previously only been available for humans.

A dog has been successfully treated with a high-tech human cancer therapy in what is being claimed as a UK first.

Ralph, a five-year-old Gordon Setter, was treated with a specialised radiation beam, sculpted to the exact shape of his tumour.

Vets at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies said the treatment had only previously been available for humans and its use on Ralph marks a UK first.

Ralph’s problems were spotted after he was taken to the vet having had nosebleeds and he was diagnosed with an aggressive tumour in his nose.

Ralph undergoing treatment
It is believed to have been the first time the treatment was used on an animal in the UK (University of Edinburgh/PA)

It was affecting his breathing and without treatment could have quickly posed a threat to his life.

He was treated using an advanced technique, known as intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which was delivered by a linear accelerator machine called Vital Beam.

The machine – based at the University of Edinburgh’s Hospital for Small Animals – delivers therapy to cancer cells using a powerful radiation beam.

By using IMRT, radiation can be delivered to the tumour, while minimising the risk to healthy tissue.

Following treatment, Ralph’s tumour has shrunk considerably, his nosebleeds have stopped and he is said to be living life to the full.

Magdalena Parys, a radiation oncology specialist vet from the vet school, said: “We are fortunate to have cutting-edge technology available for our patients.

“This advanced technology allows us to spare much more of normal healthy tissue, and gives us the ability to increase radiation doses to tumours. Our primary goal is to fight cancer but at the same time improve or maintain a good quality of life.

“We are delighted with Ralph’s progress and hope he will enjoy a good quality of life for a long time with his loving owners.”

Jenna Forbes, Ralph’s owner, said: “The Dick Vet team were reassuring at a scary time and had such determination to fight for Ralph.

“We knew he was getting the best care possible and after his treatments we always brought home a dog that had been well cared for.

“His condition is significantly better now. We have such confidence in everyone at the Dick Vet, they are a dream team.”

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