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CVM Opens New Brachytherapy Facility to Treat Equine Cancers

The North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine now offers horse owners the option for radiation therapy of equine skin cancers that could not be treated easily with more conventional techniques.

According to Dr. Brian Gilger, professor of ophthalmology at the NC State Veterinary Teaching Hospital, as good veterinary care brings increased longevity to horses, veterinarians have seen an increase in skin cancers such as the as the non-malignant sarcoid tumor as well as the malignant squamous cell carcinoma.

“As in human cancer, early detection and treatment of these equine skin cancers is crucial,” says Dr. Gilger. “Consequently, we’d like to ensure the equine community is aware of the hospital’s new Equine Brachytherapy Facility. One of the few on the East Coast, this facility provides interstitial brachytherapy, which is the best possible treatment for some equine patients diagnosed with sarcoid or squamous cell carcinoma.”

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 Dr. Gilger. “The therapy is shown to have a 99% success rate for treatment of equine cutaneous cancers and is far superior to treatments previously available.”

For more information on the therapy call 919.513.6659 or see the web page for the Equine Brachytherapy Facility.