A WORLD-FIRST skin cancer treatment for pets is being trialled in the Hawkesbury, and radiation therapist Dr Yolanda Surjan is appealing for referrals so she can take the treatment global.
The therapy, called RadVet, uses radiation technology proven for use on humans, and applies it to skin cancers on horses, cats and dogs.
Dr Surjan said it offered a safer, kinder cancer therapy compared to existing treatments for pets, and reduces the need for invasive surgery.
Dr Surjan, who has a background in radiation therapy for humans, dedicated her PhD at University of Newcastle to researching how the technology could be applied to pets.
She is now being assisted through CSIRO’s On Accelerate program to bring RadVet to market.
Skin cancer is the most common non-melanoma cancer in horses, and also accounts for a third of the total cancer incidence in dogs and cats.
With this in mind, the RadVet team has partnered with local vets Agnes Banks Equine Clinic and Vineyard Veterinary Hospital to apply the treatment, and other vets can refer animals with skin cancers they can’t treat to either of these clinics.
Dr Surjan said RadVet filled a gap in what was being offered to treat skin cancers in horses and companion animals.
She said the ‘go to’ treatment is primarily surgery, but disfigurement means some pet-owners choose not to proceed.
“I first made contact with Agnes Banks Equine Clinic eight years ago, as they were carrying-out radiation of a type on their horses,” Dr Surjan said.
“We developed a relationship together and came to the conclusion that my human radiation expertise could be applied to the animals.”
RadVet is currently in Stage 1 Trial phase, and the team has already treated a handful of local horses and dogs using RadVet.
Dr Surjan said these cases had been a “great success”, including in the case of a canine patient for which it had been recommended to remove half the jaw due to an aggressive cancer.
“We treated a dog who had a spot on its jaw and the vet had recommended it to be cut away completely, so [the owners] brought her here. So far she’s doing particularly well,” Dr Surjan said.
“We do non-invasive radiation treatment externally, meaning there’s no disfigurement.
“Recovery is very short; the evidence in humans shows recurrence is quite low and survival is quite high.
“They call this ‘translational research’. We are using what we know works well in humans and translating this across to animals. So it has been previously tested on humans, rather than animals.”
Dr Surjan and her team hope to have enough cases referred to them over the next 12 months to enter Phase 2 of the trial, which will include data collection and analysis, and ‘scaling’ to include more vet clinics.
“Since we’re in Research Phase 1 trial, we’re not charging [pet owners], but the clinics will charge their own fees,” said Dr Surjan.
“If residents have already had an initial opinion, they could go to their vet [and mention RadVet] or go directly to Vineyard Veterinary Hospital or Agnes Banks Equine Clinic [for an appraisal].”
To find out more about the treatment, visit www.radvet.com.au.