Fall 2018

On the Front Lines of Cancer Care

Go behind the scenes at our small-animal hospital to meet the clinicians, clients, and pets helping advance how we treat the disease.

By Genevieve Rajewski

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Veterinary radiation oncologist Michele Keyerleber plots a radiation treatment for a spinal tumor. Cummings Veterinary Medical Center is one of only two veterinary hospitals in Massachusetts currently offering radiation therapy. Photo: Alonso Nichols

With one of the largest small-animal caseloads in the country—nearly 34,000 a year, at last count—the Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals sees a lot of pets with cancer. It’s no wonder. Nearly half of dogs age ten or older will develop the disease, and cancer is the most common cause of death across all canine breeds (malignancies in cats, though less common, tend to be aggressive). And there’s another reason the Foster Hospital for Small Animals is so busy: It offers some of the best veterinary cancer care available anywhere.

Depending on the cancer type and location, as well as the pet owner’s wishes, clinicians in the Harrington Oncology Program can attack it with a number of cutting-edge medical, radiation therapy, and surgical techniques. Through the robust clinical-trials program, clients often can access experimental therapies not yet available elsewhere. And because Cummings School veterinarians often partner with researchers in human medicine, study volunteers are simultaneously receiving treatment and helping speed the development of future therapies that will benefit animals and humans alike.

Delivering this care, in all its forms, is a team of world-class veterinarians and veterinary technicians who always put pets first. “There is no better feeling than knowing you made a difference in the life of an animal and the family who brought that animal to us,” said Kristine Burgess, V97, a medical oncologist and resident in radiation oncology at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center. “I am grateful for being able to offer our cancer patients top-notch, state-of-the-art, and compassionate care.”

To offer an inside look at the Foster Hospital in action, Tufts University’s chief of photography, Alonso Nichols, recently spent several days on the clinic floor. He came back with stunning portraits of the clinicians, clients, and patients all working together to advance cancer care.

Veterinary radiation oncologist Michele Keyerleber plots a radiation treatment for a spinal tumor. Cummings Veterinary Medical Center is one of only two veterinary hospitals in Massachusetts currently offering radiation therapy.

Kaleigh Peters, a resident in small-animal surgery, uses an infrared camera to check for any malignant cells left behind after a large liver mass has been removed from Portia, a poodle mix. The new surgical tool being studied at Cummings School can highlight cancer cells on a screen in the operating room.

Clinical-trials veterinary technician Michelle Willette prepares an injection of an immunotherapy for soft-tissue sarcoma.

Samples of cancer cells are frozen at -80 degrees Celsius for future research.

Midori snuggles her owner, Sunindia Bhalla, A04, who said the experimental treatment she accessed through the Foster Hospital for Small Animals seems to be keeping Midori’s bladder cancer at bay.

From left to right: Veterinary radiation oncologist Michele Keyerleber and veterinary technicians Tiffany DeNitti and Lauren Heintz prepare Grizzy, a Belgian Tervuren, for radiation therapy to treat a spinal tumor.

Simba, a cat undergoing chemotherapy for nasal lymphoma, with oncology veterinary technician Jessica Snyder (left) and veterinary oncologist Carrie Wood.

Now read how Cheryl London, V90, and clinicians at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center are breaking down silos in cancer research to speed new cures for pets and people.

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