Missouri veterinary school professor clears path for canine prostate cancer research

Innovative technique relieves dogs' discomfort, offers second chance to participate in study.
source-image
Aug 30, 2012
By dvm360.com staff

Two veterinary professors have joined forces to improve the lives of dogs suffering from prostate cancer, according to the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. Sandra Axiak, DVM, ACVIM, assistant professor of veterinary oncology at the university, and Deborah Fine, DVM, MS, associate professor of cardiology, discovered that by working together, they could benefit a population of dogs—now and hopefully in the years to come.

It was Axiak who developed a study to treat canine prostatic carcinoma, an aggressive cancer that often invades the bladder and urethra of affected dogs, leading to urinary difficulty and discomfort. As designed, the goal of the study was to determine the efficacy of injecting radioactive gold nanoparticles into prostatic tumors in an effort to achieve control of the cancer without the side effects commonly associated with radiation therapy. But enrollment in her study hit a snag when, due to the invasive nature of the disease, many dogs were deemed ineligible for participation because the cancer had infiltrated their bladders and urethras in such a way that urination without catheterization was impossible (study participants would be eligible only if they could urinate on their own). It was then that Axiak's colleague, Fine, stepped in to assist and help boost enrollment for the study—not to mention offer the dogs a much needed improvement in their quality of life.

Fine's technique involves inserting a spring-like urethral stent into the dogs, first identifying the location of the tumor by injecting dye into the bladder and urethra and then mapping out the appropriate path for placement of the stent. Once placed, the stent covers the length of the urethra that extends beyond either side of the tumor and allows the dogs relief from urinary discomfort.

Fine has successfully performed about a half-dozen urethral stent placements for dogs in the study and is believed to be the only veterinarian in the Missouri performing this procedure.