UC Davis Successfully Treats Cancer in Dog of Olympic Champion and Actor/Singer Star Couple

cocker spaniel laying on rug
Hunter had surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital to remove a cancerous mass.

UC Davis Successfully Treats Cancer in Dog of Olympic Champion and Actor/Singer Star Couple

two men with dog
Brian Boitano (left) and Franc D’Ambrosio with Hunter following successful surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

Hunter, a 9-year-old cocker spaniel, lives a great life with his owners Brian Boitano and Franc D’Ambrosio. But when D’Ambrosio noticed an abnormality while performing a routine anal sac expression, they took Hunter to their veterinarian who diagnosed apocrine gland anal sac adenocarcinoma (AGASACA). While AGASACA represents 17% of all perianal tumors in dogs, it only makes up 2% of all canine skin tumors. Cocker spaniels are among a handful of breeds most commonly affected by this disease.

The San Francisco couple are not your ordinary pet owners. Boitano is best known as the 1988 Olympic gold medalist in figure skating. He also starred in The Brian Boitano Project on HGTV and is the author of the popular cookbook What Would Brian Boitano Make? D’Ambrosio, affectionately known as the “Iron Man of the Mask,” portrayed the lead role in The Phantom of the Opera, performing as the famed masked man more than 2,100 times, holding the title of “The World’s Longest-Running Phantom” for more than a decade. He also starred as opera-singing Anthony Corleone in Godfather III.

The famous pair were prepared to do anything and travel anywhere to get Hunter the best care. With specialists in medical, surgical, and radiation oncology all in one place, the UC Davis veterinary hospital offers the foremost cancer care services. Along with clinical trials to advance research and treatments into the disease, as well as the hospital’s collaborative nature among specialists, UC Davis was the place for Hunter to be.

“We knew UC Davis was the best in the country,” said Boitano. “We immediately reached out to friends, and they put us in touch with Dr. Kent.”

Dr. Michael Kent, chief of the Radiation Oncology Service, examined Hunter and worked with the Anesthesia and Diagnostic Imaging Services to perform a CT scan to gain better insight into Hunter’s condition. The scan showed a mass in the region of the anal gland. On a positive note, Hunter did not have enlarged lymph nodes, and there were no signs of metastasis.

Dr. Kent conferred with Dr. Bill Culp, chief of the Soft Tissue Surgery Service, and they agreed that the best course of action was surgical removal of the cancerous mass.

Surgery was scheduled, and Dr. Culp and surgical resident Dr. Amy Downey successfully removed the tumor. Hunter was stable under anesthesia throughout his surgical procedure and recovered without complication.

“They’re amazing and the bedside manner is so great at UC Davis,” Boitano said about Hunter’s care team.

Dr. Kent will continue to monitor Hunter to ensure his lymph nodes remain clean and there is not a recurrence of the cancer.

“With continued regular monitoring, if the cancer does return or spread, we will be able to treat it with combinations of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy all while making sure Hunter has the best quality of life,” said Dr. Kent.


75th Anniversary Gala
Brian Boitano will serve as the Master of Ceremonies at the 75th Anniversary Gala on June 29. For more info and tickets, visit the Gala website.

Boitano will serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s 75th Anniversary Gala on June 29, 2024, at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. Boitano and D’Ambrosio are donating a dinner and a personal concert by D’Ambrosio to the event’s auction.

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