Archived News

New Therapies to Treat Cancer Being Explored

April 29, 2016

Lindsay Stevens, RVT, comforts a patient receiving chemotherapy treatment.

Lindsay Stevens, RVT, comforts a patient receiving chemotherapy treatment.

Through research funding assistance from the Center for Companion Animal Health (CCAH), hospital clinicians are continually looking for ways to enhance their understanding of and treatments for oncologic diseases. Many of these research projects materialize as clinical trials to bring about new procedures that may revolutionize the standard of care for many common forms of cancer.

Dr. Michele Steffey of the Soft Tissue Surgery Service is leading current studies on thermal ablation. The process involves placing a patient under general anesthesia and ablation probes are placed in a minimally invasive way into the pet’s mass using imaging guidance, such as computed tomography or ultrasound. Ablation, or killing of the tumor cells, is then performed using thermal, chemical or electrical methods. With thermal ablation, the procedure directly changes the temperature of the lesion with either heating (microwave ablation) or freezing (cryoablation) for the purpose of causing cells to die.

Oncology specialists Drs. Jenna Burton, Michael Kent and Rob Rebhun are all currently conducting separate clinical trials and research projects on dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma. The team has focused on osteosarcoma in dogs as both a way to understand this cancer in canines and as an animal model for humans. With osteosarcoma in dogs, the primary tumor can usually be addressed effectively through removal or radiation. The more worrisome problem is that most of these cancers metastasize and spread to the lungs. The prognosis for these patients remains poor. Identifying and targeting therapy-resistant tumor cells is a major step to improving the standard of care. With Dr. Kent’s trial, the focus is on finding a way to slow or stop the spread of the tumor to the lungs.

Dr. Kent, who serves as CCAH director, is also recruiting for dogs diagnosed with either soft tissue sarcoma or melanoma. That trial focuses on treating dogs with combined immunotherapy and radiation therapy at the primary tumor site to see if the immune system is induced to attack the tumor and prevent metastatis.

Currently, 20 clinical trials are focused on oncology.

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About the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
The William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis—a unit of the #1 world ranked School of Veterinary Medicine—provides state-of-the-art clinical care while serving as the primary clinical teaching experience for DVM students and post graduate veterinarian residents. The VMTH treats more than 51,000 animals a year, ranging from cats and dogs to horses, cows and exotic species. To learn more about the VMTH, please go to Timely news updates can be received on its Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages.

Media Contact:
Rob Warren
VMTH Communications & Marketing Officer