The Cancer Treatment Unit was formed in 1998 to aid in the diagnosis, care, and treatment of veterinary patients with cancer. The facility has two major service units—medical oncology (chemotherapy) and radiation oncology. Each of these units is designed to diagnose and treat veterinary cancer patients with the most advanced and cutting-edge technology available. The oncology service works from a team approach, so a patient requiring chemotherapy and radiation therapy has the benefit of being evaluated by specialists in each of these fields, who then design a treatment protocol tailored to their individual needs.
Medical oncologists deal with patients that have cancers requiring chemotherapy. There are many different types of chemotherapy agents for use in veterinary cancer patients. The protocol chosen will depend on the cancer type, as well as how advanced the cancer is when evaluated by the CTU oncologists. Most veterinary patients tolerate chemotherapy much better than their human counterparts, and advances in the control of chemotherapy induced side effects has greatly decreased the incidence of common toxicities like nausea and vomiting. Most owners of pets undergoing chemotherapy for cancer will describe their pet’s quality of life as excellent (normal) during therapy.
Radiation oncologists use radiation to kill cancer cells locally. This allows cancers that cannot be cured with surgery alone to be treated effectively. With the incorporation of radiation it is often possible to perform a less aggressive surgery than would otherwise be necessary. The radiation oncology service of the CTU uses a linear accelerator to deliver a high energy beam of radiation to the tumor. The LSU CTU is one of the only veterinary schools in the country that uses a multileaf collimator to perform intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). This technology allows the radiation beam to be tightly conformed to the tumor contour, sparing normal tissues in the radiation area. This permits precise delivery of a high dose of radiation to the tumor, while sparing critical normal tissues.