Not Just for Humans Anymore
his pointed ears and habit of purring, Percy doesn’t
resemble your typical cancer patient, but at the University
of Missouri-Columbia's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital,
even Russian Blue cats can undergo radiation treatment.
Each year, more than 1,200 animal patients
are helped through the innovative veterinary oncology program
at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.
Veterinarians with specialty training in
oncology see these cats, dogs, and horses. As our animals
live longer, they are increasingly being affected by maladies
traditionally associated with old age, including cancer. In
fact, many types of cancers afflict animals as well as people.
The MU program routinely works in cooperation
with human medicine oncologists to find effective treatments
for numerous species. Veterinarians at MU use similar techniques
of human medicine, including the newest advances in chemotherapy,
radiation, and surgery.
"MU is unique in that it is home to
a veterinary teaching hospital, a medical school and cancer
center, a research reactor, and a life sciences research center,
all located on the same physical campus," said Dr. Carolyn
Henry, associate professor and director of the Scott Endowed
Program in Veterinary Oncology. "This gives us an unparalleled
opportunity to create a multidisciplinary team of clinicians
and researchers devoted to discovering improved diagnostic
and therapeutic options for all cancer patients."
MU has four board-certified veterinary
oncologists on staff, as well as a board-certified radiation
therapist, three medical oncology and one radiation oncology
resident, and one oncology intern.
Cats can develop several cancers, including
squamous cell carcinoma, lymphoma, breast cancer, and lung
cancer. The demand for veterinary oncologists has increased
as more and more people consider pets as members of their
families and seek advanced treatment.
In addition, the MU group has developed
an oncology clinical trials service for enrollment of animal
cancer patients in trials evaluating new cutting-edge therapies.
As evidence of their success in this area, the MU oncology
program was chosen as one of only 13 sites comprising the
National Cancer Institute's Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium.
The first trial studying a novel cancer treatment in dogs
is underway, with MU serving as one of only four trial sites
in the nation.
Percy won the heart of Brad Belk, the director
at the Joplin Museum Complex in Joplin, Mo. (www.joplinmuseum.org),
who found the cat abandoned in 2000. Mr. Belk decided to keep
the kitten as an official museum greeter.
In the last seven years, Percy has welcomed
more than 100,000 museum visitors, received fan letters from
people all over the world, and survived a well-publicized
kidnapping. He has become a local celebrity. Some of his famous
fans include the governor of Missouri; Brad Pitt's mother,
who wanted one of his offspring to give to Jennifer Aniston;
and artist Harriet Cremeen, who completed an oil painting
of the cat three years ago.
MU veterinary oncologists were determined
not to let cancerous lesions from Percy's abdomen and left
hind leg end his star status. Percy was brought to the veterinary
teaching hospital after three previous surgeries did not completely
remove his tumors. To combat his aggressive form of fibrosarcoma,
the cat had four weeks of radiation therapy by one of the
few linear accelerators dedicated to veterinary use. During
his stay at the hospital, Percy received 20 doses of radiation
to his tumor site.
Percy handled the treatments well, showing
no signs of side effects from his time in the teaching hospital’s
linear accelerator. Percy was released from the hospital and
is doing well, Dr. Henry said, and back to his museum job
and fans in Joplin.
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