N.C. State University opens equine brachytherapy facility

N.C. State University opens equine brachytherapy facility

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May 03, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Raleigh, N.C. -- A new brachytherapy facility at North Carolina State Veterinary Teaching Hospital allows horse owners with animals suffering from skin cancer to choose less lengthy, more accurate treatment.

"As in human cancer, early detection and treatment of these equine skin cancers is crucial," says Dr. Brian Gilger, professor of ophthalmology at the hospital.

The new facility provides interstitial brachytherapy, which is the best possible treatment for some equine patients diagnosed with sarcoid or squamous-cell carcinoma, according to Gilger.

As veterinarians see an increase in skin cancers, such as the non-malignant sarcoid tumor or malignant squamous-cell carcinoma, new therapies have been developed.

Interstitial brachytherapy is a form of radiation therapy involving a minor surgical procedure where needles or seeds, in this case iridium-192, are implanted directly into the tumor to deliver a dose of radiation. Eligible tumors must meet certain size constraints.

The therapy allows accurate delivery of relatively high doses of radiation to the tumor without damaging adjacent sensitive structures. The patient is hospitalized for seven days at which point the implants are removed and the horse is released, radiation-free.

"The interstitial brachytherapy approach is particularly helpful for tumors around the eyes and eyelids as well as other sensitive organs," says Gilger. "The therapy is shown to have a 99 percent success rate for treatment of equine cutaneous cancers and is far superior to treatments previously available."