Patrick Coffey, oncology specialist Dr Kathleen O’Connell, oncology intern Dr Albert Thomas and Mya Rush with Eli and Milly at the Animal Referral Hospital at Sinnamon Park.
Patrick Coffey, oncology specialist Dr Kathleen O’Connell, oncology intern Dr Albert Thomas and Mya Rush with Eli and Milly at the Animal Referral Hospital at Sinnamon Park.

Safer, faster cancer cure for pets

SPECIALISTS at the Animal Referral Hospital at Sinnamon Park are using a groundbreaking new cancer treatment for dogs and cats that is safer, kinder and quicker.

Specialist oncologist Dr Kathleen O'Connell said the new treatment, stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT), meant some previously inoperable tumours could now be treated.

"Stereotactic radiation therapy is a phenomenal development as it goes to the core of the major barriers to cancer treatment - time and side effects," Dr O'Connell said.

"We are now able to offer a much simpler treatment plan, which gives pets and owners more quality time together and is also more effective in treating certain cancers.

"With 50 per cent of dogs and cats over the age of 10 years developing cancer, SRT will have a real impact on many of our patients' lives."

Animal Referral Hospital patient Sam was successfully treated for a life-threatening cancer.
Animal Referral Hospital patient Sam was successfully treated for a life-threatening cancer.


The ARH radiation program is managed by Dr O'Connell, Dr Maurine Thomson (specialist oncologist) and Dr Elizabeth Morgan (oncology registrar).

They work closely with Sydney radiation oncologist Dr David Lurie who introduced SRT to Australia in 2018.

"This new technology is in line with cancer treatment in the human field and so far has limited availability in the veterinary field," Dr O'Connell said.

She said the treatment meant healthy tissues surrounding a cancer received lower radiation and some of the side effects such as skin irritation, nausea and pain were avoided.

Oncology specialist Dr Kathleen O’Connell and nurse Erica Munro with their patient and cancer cure success story Milly.
Oncology specialist Dr Kathleen O’Connell and nurse Erica Munro with their patient and cancer cure success story Milly.

"It allows bigger doses to be delivered in fewer treatments, usually only three are required."

She said the new treatment would cut the number of anaesthetics required from 18 or 20 down to just four.

"We can now treat cancers that were deemed inoperable, including many brain tumours," Dr O'Connell said.

"We can also treat bone, nasal, prostatic, oral and urethral tumours."

Success stories have included Millie, a seven-year-old English Sheepdog with a large jaw tumour that was growing too big.

Millie's tumour was highly susceptible to SRT and after receiving the treatment she is back to her old self.

Sam's owners, Stephen and Narelle, started worrying when he wasn't able to get up onto the couch or run around at the park.

He had a mass on his pelvis, which turned out to be a rare and nasty cancer that arises from cartilage.

Dr Maurine Thomson removed a part of his pelvis and then he was treated with SRT.

The doctors said the combined surgery and radiation gave Sam the best chance at long-term survival.

"We're looking forward to growing this program and being able to help many more animals suffering from such a debilitating disease," Dr O'Connell said.



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