The future of veterinary oncology treatment, not just for animals…
Sometimes I get very lucky, and this week is one of them times (much needed after the past 2 months) as I was invited to the grand opening of the new Fitzpatrick Referrals Oncology and Soft Tissue Hospital in Surrey.
One of the things that I hate most about medicine is when the words “There is nothing we can do” come into play. Personally I don’t think these should ever exist, and yet when it comes to pets and animals they commonly are used. This was the start of change for the veterinary profession when after changing the face of orthopaedics Noel Fitzpatrick decided that something needed to be done about cancer.
As it was very well put today by Noel I’ll stick with it…
“Cancer doesn’t care if it is in your child or your Labrador; it is still a cancer cell!”
Yet though this is true, and many of the tumours seen between humans and animals are the same, animals do not get the same care that humans do. Whilst a animal shouldn’t be stuck in bed hooked up to tubes, it should still get the best treatment and chance of a cure as possible. And being different is where Noel has brought in one of the leading medical oncologists Dr Kevin Kow alongside two of the worlds best veterinary oncologists.
The building itself is amazing, and I really am jealous of the Surrey Vet School students that will get to learn and practice there. Everything is the most modern design using the latest in research to make it as relaxed experience for animals and owners as possible. From the cat wards where you can see every cat for monitoring but the cats cannot see each other through to a central prep area where everything is accessible from one easy space.
The last stop on the tour today was where the future is going to happen which is planned for 2016 when the UK’s most powerful animal linear generator will be installed. This will allow for high power radiation to be delivered accurate to very small areas within the body to help treat cancers of the brain, liver, spleen and kidneys.
Anyone that has watched Bionic Vet will know the story of Oscar the cat that had his back legs chopped of by a combine harvester, and that Prof. Noel Fitzpatrick replaced them with some implanted metal legs. However did you know that this new “honeycomb” implant technology was being developed for human use as a replacement to fake limbs using the socket and strap method? In fact since Oscar the technology has been used in humans, one of the London bombing victims has the same type of implants for a new arm.
The only reason that Oscar got his implanted legs was because the doctors developing the implant could not get ethical permission to cut off the legs from research dogs to “test” their new dogs. Instead they turned to actual patients that had lost their legs through trauma – Oscar was the first cat to be used to test this new technology.
However even though developed in animals and widely used in humans now this new treatment technology is still very limited in its use in animals, with just one or two places in the UK providing it.
Now it could be claimed that this is pretty unfair. It happens all the time though, loads of the human medical advances are developed through veterinarians and animals. Yet sadly once the treatment is developed it then only occurs in the human world.
This is where the One Health concept has come from – animals and humans should work together for health sharing knowledge and breakthroughs in medicine. It is a concept that I am wholly behind, as sometimes there are simple fixes to problems that are just restricted to human use not because of anything special, but because of lack of knowledge.
In fact for rarer animals in zoo’s vets often call in human doctors to help with surgery – very common with primates – so getting this expertise however without the knowledge. Part of this is because of the high level of specialisation in human medicine – a surgeon will just specialise in a certain area whilst the specialisation in veterinary medicine is not so specific. This is something I love about veterinary medicine – the variety – however I do see the field evolving into a highly specialist referral system for more complex cases.
This is why I am so excited for Vet Festival and the One Health Live Concert next month at the University of Surrey. This is the future, and it is now.