I like to start the year at the North American Veterinary Conference. 1st: it is one of the biggest vet conferences worldwide, which means it is a great place to gather knowledge that will be useful in my everyday work. 2nd: it’s in Florida, and – that’s a fact- in January, no need to say it’s MUCH warmer than Ontario. Obviously I was glad to attend, and I started the week with a lecture on veterinary oncology. Sure, it’s kind of far from my area of expertise, but CEs are here to teach you new things, right? So here are the top 5 veterinary oncology advances that were described during this lecture.
#1 Multimodal pain management
Oncologic surgeries are unfortunately painful but veterinarians now have multiple options to treat the associated pain in our animals (opioids, anti-inflammatory drugs, local anesthesia,…). The use of pain diffusion catheters was also discussed: these are close-ended cathethers that can be placed after aggressive surgeries and will locally deliver analgesic drugs. They offer great benefits to better control pain on the surgery site, speakers said.
#2 Targeted therapies
The speakers discussed about several new therapeutic alternatives that are now available in veterinary oncology but one really got my interest: the melanoma vaccines. Short summary: the tyrosinase – an enzyme- is involved in the development of melanomas. Since recently, a vaccine is available that will help the organism build an immune response against this tyrosinase, which can add great benefit in terms of treatment. The speakers showed data concerning stage IV (=very aggressive) melanomas, where life expectancy is usually 30-60 days post-diagnosis. With vaccination, survival averages 239 days. This is just an example (and a great one I think), but it shows us that we have more and more effective therapies in veterinary oncology.
#3 Stereotactic radiation therapy
Radiation therapy can be a useful tool in veterinary oncology, especially in tumors like osteosarcomas, nasal tumors and brain tumors. Must admit I was not aware of that but before, we could not conform the radiation beams… which means that when we were using radiation therapy, we had to irradiate tissues surrounding the tumor as well. Fortunately things have changed: we are now able to conform these beams so we better target the tumor: healthy tissues will not be irradiated or less irradiated.
In people treated with chemotherapy, most patients will suffer from nausea and emesis. And in our pets? Well, to tell the truth, we honestly don’t know. The speakers said that if vomiting could usually be detected by the pet’s owner, it’s usually hard for somebody who is not familiar with what a nauseous dog or cat looks like from a clinical standpoint… Veterinary oncologists now focus on this under-estimated side effect of chemotherapy in pets and they showed some data on molecules that are currently used in humans that could be game changers in the vet world as well.