What a topsy-turvy world it has been during the first half of 2020! With the pandemic, everyone has had to adjust to a new normal. For the oncology team, this has meant changing our routine to serve our patients as safely as possible, while maintaining an often-full schedule.
Many services in the hospital were able to limit appointments partially or completely. Cancer, however, makes its own agenda and many cases could not wait for the uncertainty to pass. From curbside drop off and pick up to expanded communication by phone to limit face-to-face meetings, we are providing cancer care while still growing as a service.
We continue to use radiation therapy to treat patients with locally problematic tumors and to ease discomfort from tumors that cannot be removed. Radiation therapy can be combined with systemic chemotherapy when needed.
Stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) provides radiation that is so precise and conformal, shaping to the edges of the tumor, that we can deliver high doses over just a few (usually three) days within one week. Short-term (acute) side effects are mild.
For some tumor types, such as most brain and nasal tumors, the outcome with a three-day course of SRT is very similar to conventional radiation therapy during which approximately 20 small doses of radiation are given daily over a four-week period. Conventional radiation is more appropriate for certain tumors, such as those of the pituitary gland, and for incompletely excised tumors that are locally invasive, such as mast cell tumors or soft tissue sarcomas.
Our clinical trials group has also continued its noble work during the pandemic, planning new and exciting opportunities for pets and their owners to explore novel and promising new treatments. To find our current trials, visit www.vetcancertrials.org (national database) or vetmed.illinois.edu/clinical-trials/.
When considering a clinical trial, all standard and novel options are discussed, and trials are often sought because of one or more of the following reasons: financially subsidized care, the ability to contribute to the greater good and help to improve the lives of animals in the future, and a lack of effective treatment options (either because a tumor is difficult to treat, or because it is progressing despite common treatments).
Each year there are changes in the oncology team when you work in academia. We are excited for our departing resident Dr. Mark Byrum as he begins a new chapter of his professional life, and we are equally excited to welcome new faces. Our newest faculty member, Dr. Alycen Lundberg, has now settled into her role in medical oncology. Dr. Jennifer Yee has been our radiation oncology intern and is staying on as a resident in radiation oncology.
Dr. Amanda Seelman will be joining our group as the new medical oncology resident, and Dr. Rebecca Bernstein will be our clinical trials dedicated intern.
We are excited to welcome them to the team and look forward to what the next year holds for oncology at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital
By Kimberly Selting, DVM, MS, ACVIM (Specialty Oncology), ACVR (Radiation Oncology)