Comprehensive Care for Dog with Cancer Includes Access to Innovative Clinical Trial


When Brady, an 11-year-old, mixed breed yellow Labrador, presented to his primary care veterinarian with a lump on his right hind leg in May 2014, it did not appear to be anything of concern. However, after surgery and biopsy results, owner Kory Haag heard the words no pet owner wants to hear: Brady had a high- grade mast cell tumor and would have about six months to live. That was when Kory made an appointment with the oncology specialists at Foster Hospital to explore if there were other treatments they should pursue.

For Kory Haag, it was an instinctual decision to bring Brady to Foster Hospital. He had previously brought his dog there for the treatment of epilepsy and was pleased with the care received.


Brady had the opportunity to see not one but two of the oncology residents, Kelly Kezer, BVSc, and Bobbi McQuown, DVM, who both consulted on his case. Testing was completed and Brady underwent further surgery to ensure all the cancer cells had been removed. Brady then received an injectable chemotherapy agent once a week for four weeks, which was administered on site at Foster Hospital. He was subsequently transitioned to an oral small molecule inhibitor that targets a mutation found to be present on Brady’s mast cell tumor. Individuals bring their pets to an academic veterinary medical center because they offer a comprehensive, one-stop resource for high-caliber, advanced and specialty veterinary services. That includes access to the latest research and leading edge treatments available.

For Brady, this presented an opportunity to take part in a study exploring the impact of a novel diet in dogs with cancer. Cancer is far too often diagnosed in older dogs and it is becoming more common for owners to treat their pets with chemotherapy. The goal of the study was to determine whether a specially formulated diet might reduce the gastrointestinal side effects that can accompany chemotherapy and improve their quality of life.

It was easy,” said Kory. “I merely filled out an enrollment form and was provided the food to feed Brady. It involved giving Brady a certain number of calories per day and was limited to specific treats. I also had to document what he ate as well as his bowel movements and it was all done online.”

Brady adapted well to the diet and easily transitioned to a commercial brand of food after the study was completed.


It is now almost eight months since Brady’s cancer diagnosis and Brady has a new leash on life, enjoying a very active lifestyle with ongoing therapy. While the collective results of the diet study will not be available for another year, Brady’s ultrasounds and blood work have been consistently favorable. Dr. Kezer remarked at how amazed she is when she hears about the hikes that owner Kory and Brady continue to take, including mountain climbs.

And Kory can’t say enough about the caring staff at Foster Hospital. When he recently discovered another small lump on Brady’s leg in January, he grew concerned. Within two days, he was scheduled to see Dr. McQuown and fortunately it turned out to be just fatty tissue. He also commented on how accommodating the staff was in scheduling Brady’s chemotherapy since he was traveling from Holyoke.

As the only academic veterinary center in New England, we are dedicated to providing care in a compassionate environment to heal the animals we see each and every day. For Brady, that offered the chance to get all of his services in one place, including his surgery, chemotherapy administration and ongoing medical follow-up. What is highly encouraging for pet owners is the exploratory research studies that we offer that provide hope, a better quality of life and additional time that companion pets can spend with their families.

At Your Service: Onoclogy

Oncology Service
Providing Families More Quality Time with their Companion Pets

Who We Are
The Harrington Oncology Program at the Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine provides state-of-the-art diagnostic, medical, radiation therapy and surgical techniques. Led by board-certified specialists in medical and radiation oncology, it is supported by a team of residents, dedicated technicians and staff.

Foster Hospital believes in a team approach to care and our oncologists work closely with a highly skilled surgery service with expertise in surgical oncology, as well as with the pathology, diagnostic imaging, interventional radiology and pain management services. Our collaboration allows us to offer treatment options that are customized based on the tumor type, the spread of the cancer, and the overall health of the pet. This could involve a single treatment modality or a combination of different therapies. In some cases, in accordance with the client’s wishes, a more conservative strategy may focus on palliative care. Through all of this we provide you and your client with detail on the type of cancer, treatment options, and expected outcomes, keeping quality of life as a top priority. The oncology service takes pride in ensuring that all of the client’s questions are answered and that the veterinarians, technicians and pet owners work as a team.

As an academic veterinary medical center, we are training the veterinarians of the future, and are also actively engaged in research into the causes, biology and treatment of cancer. As a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium, and through independent studies and collaboration with other veterinary and biomedical institutions, the oncology service is able to offer investigational therapies, in addition to conventional treatment. In addition, we participate in the Tufts Human Animal Cancer Collaborative with the Medical School at Tufts University, where treating cancer in companion animals helps inform how we treat humans.

Technology and Services Available
The Harrington Oncology Program is recognized nationally in the field, boasting some of the most advanced technology available in veterinary medical establishments. With medical staff and technicians well-versed and experienced in chemotherapy administration, radiation therapy and anesthesia, specific features of our service include:

  • Intravenous, intralesional an intracavitary chemotherapy administration, including long continuous-rate infusions
  • Melanoma vaccine administration
  • Siemens Primus linear accelerator with 6MV photon and 6-21 MeV electron capabilities and a 56-leaf collimator that allows for intensity modulated radiation therapy
  • Three-dimensional computerized radiation therapy planning
  • Strontium plesiotherapy
  • Various biospy techniques, including manual incision, punch, needle-core biopsies as well as image-guided (ultrasound or computed tomography) and open surgical procedures
  • Interventional radiologic procedures, such as chemoembolization and intra-arterial chemotherapy administration
  • Access to investigational clinical protocols

Referring a Patient
The Harrington Oncology Program typically sees new patients who have a confirmed cancer diagnosis. This often allows us to provide clients with a full array of staging and treatment options during the initial visit. We understand, however, that circumstances arise in which an oncology consult is valuable before a diagnosis is made. You should feel free to call us about these cases to facilitate a referral. We welcome the opportunity to even provide you with a telephone consult (free of charge) regarding general information on cancer management or to discuss a possible referral.

In situations when pet owners are uncertain whether they wish to pursue treatment for their pets with a cancer diagnosis, we encourage referrals to address their questions regarding anticipated course of the disease, treatment options and palliative care. You may contact Kelly Reed, our clinical liaison, at 508-887-4682, and she will facilitate all care for pets you refer.

Meet the Team

Radiation Oncology Faculty

Michele Keyerleber, DVM, DACVR, a board-certified veterinary radiation oncologist and faculty member, is a 2008 graduate of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She later completed a small animal internship at The Ohio State University, before returning to Cornell for a residency in radiation oncology. Dr. Keyerleber joined the faculty of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in 2011. Her research interests include radiation therapy planning for neoplasia in dogs and cats, brain tumors, and palliative radiation therapy. Dr. Keyerleber also has a strong interest in pain and side effect management for radiation therapy patients.

Elizabeth McNiel, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVR is board-certified in radiation and medical oncology. She is a 1992 graduate of Texas A&M University and completed a small animal rotating internship at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston. Dr. McNiel completed a medical oncology residency program followed by a combined radiation oncology residency and PhD program at Colorado State University. Prior to coming to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in 2012, she served on the faculty of the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University. An active researcher, Dr. McNiel studies the molecular biology of canine and feline tumors in her laboratory at the Molecular Oncology Research Institute at the Tufts Medical Center. Her goal is to translate basic discoveries in the laboratory into clinical advances for animals through clinical trials.

Medical Oncology Faculty

Lisa Barber, DVM, DACVIM, is a 1992 graduate of Ohio State University. She completed a small animal internship and residency in veterinary oncology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine where she subsequently served as a staff oncologist prior to joining the faculty at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. She specializes in treating dogs and cats with a variety of cancers, and consults on large animals as well as exotic animals. Her research interests include epidemiologic studies to identify risk factors for various cancers as well as investigation of novel treatments for cancer.

Kristine Burgess, DVM, DACVIM, is a board-certified veterinary oncologist at the Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. After receiving her undergraduate degree from UMass, and completing a masters degree from work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Kristine went on to earn her DVM from the Cummings School in 1997. She subsequently completed her residency training at the University of Wisconsin. She collaborates with several other institutions to run clinical trials for new and advanced cancer treatments for dogs and cats, which may lead to better treatment options for both pets and humans.

Oncology Residents

Kelly Kezer, DVM, a first-year medical oncology resident, received her veterinary degree from Massey University in New Zealand. After graduation, she completed a small animal rotating internship at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, Florida, a high-volume practice, where she solidified her interest in oncology. Dr. Kezer enjoys all aspects of veterinary oncology, but has particular interest in novel therapies and international veterinary medicine.

Felicia Lew, DVM, a second-year medical oncology resident, is originally from Seattle, Washington. A 2012 graduate of Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, she completed a small animal rotating internship at a private specialty hospital in San Diego, California. Dr. Lew has an interest in basic science research, specifically in cancer biology and carcinogenesis.

Bobbi McQuown, DVM, a third year oncology resident, is originally from the Midwest. Prior to veterinary school, she spent 5 years in the Army as a communications officer. In 2011, she graduated from the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, subsequently completing a small animal rotating internship at VCA VREC/Shoreline in Connecticut. Her ongoing research includes assessment of palliative radiation therapy and anal sac tumors, IGF-1 levels in dogs with lymphoma, and the use of Palladia in dogs with heart base tumors.

Oncology Technicians
Amy Bengtson
Tiffany DeNitti
Jenn Ford
Pam Shaw

Clinical Trials Coordinator
Diane Welsh

Oncology Liaison
Kelly Reed

Current Concepts

Oral Malignant Melanoma in Dogs and Cats

Melanoma is a tumor of melanocytes, which arise from neural crest cells and function to synthesize melanin. Melanocytes are commonly located in the oral cavity, haired skin and eye, making these the most common locations where melanomas arise. Biologic behavior of melanoma depends in part on tumor location. The majority of melanomas that arise in the oral cavity are classified both histologically and biologically as malignant. Histologic features that support a diagnosis of oral malignant melanoma include a mitotic index greater than 2 mitoses per 10 high-powered fields, nuclear atypia, vascular or lymphatic invasion and ulceration. Malignant tumors may be variably pigmented or amelanotic (one third of cases). Since melanocytes are derived from neural crest cells, which ultimately give rise to both glandular tissues and connective tissues, melanomas can resemble both carcinomas and sarcomas morphologically. Given these challenges to diagnosing a malignant melanoma, several immunohistochemical stains have been developed to aid in the diagnosis.  Melanomas typically stain positive for vimentin, melan A, S100, and neuron-specific enolase (NSE); these stains can be helpful in diagnosis. Continue reading

At Your Service: Oncology

Tufts’ Clinical Oncology Team

The clinical oncology service at Tufts’ Foster Hospital is comprised of veterinary oncologists, residents and technicians who work together as a team.  The oncologists work closely with the surgery service, which has expertise in surgical oncology, as well as with the pathology, diagnostic imaging, interventional radiology and pain management services.  Through collaboration with these and other specialty services throughout the hospital, the oncology service provides a broad range of options for owners of companion animals with cancer. Continue reading