We change the notion of cancer by challenging it. We are never resting. We are never still.
Achieving victory over cancer, at whatever level, is the centre’s priority.
According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, 1 in 4 dogs will sadly develop cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is also the leading cause of death in dogs beyond middle age. Cancer will also affect up to one third of cats. Our pets share our lives, our houses, our beds and our food, so understanding how cancers develop in all species is a priority. We are also now beginning to learn how similar genetic faults can cause cancers in humans and animals. Little separates human and animal cancers. Understanding the disease in animals may be a powerful way to advance our understanding of cancer in all species.
At AURA, we use the current understanding of cancer to guide our treatment strategies. Of greater importance is our drive to advance our knowledge of cancer with the hope of improving outcomes in the future. This might be through everyday victories of successful treatments, or it might one day be a more significant victory that comes from contributing towards global scientific understanding. The ultimate hope is that this knowledge can be extrapolated beyond animals, making a mark on the treatment of cancer in humans too.
At AURA, the surgeons, medical oncologists, interventional oncologists and anaesthesia teams work side-by-side to consider options for the simplest to the most complex cancer cases in the UK. Many cases are presented at multi-disciplinary rounds to give the benefit of AURA’s collective expertise. Senior clinicians from all services are available to review the treatment strategy for an individual patient, or work through a challenging problem. Multi-disciplinary rounds help us ensure that the most complex patients are receiving the optimal care for their cancer. They also provide a valuable educational experience for junior veterinarians-in-training or colleagues visiting from around the world.
Care with empathy
At AURA we believe it is time to reframe the conversation about cancer in animals, and move away from negativity, sadness and pessimism. Nobody tells animals they have cancer and so our priority is about promoting quality of life, for as long as possible, in that order. As the science gets better and the treatments improve, AURA is bringing optimism to veterinary oncology. The darker aspects of cancer must not be dismissed, but discussed openly and honestly to provide clarity and certainty for all.
Cancer can be a challenging disease. Our primary concern will always be the welfare and wellbeing of the patient, over and above what treatment solutions are possible. Animals cannot fight their own battles, and at AURA we understand the privilege of being a guide and supporter for both the owner and pet. In some cases there will be conversations that may challenge what has historically been considered impossible, but we strive to remain grounded by acceptable boundaries of welfare and ethics.
At AURA, we are proud to have an ethical committee comprised of representatives from across the hospital, both clinical and lay members. The ethical committee is available to meet at a moment’s notice to discuss proposed treatments, if there is any concern there may be an adverse impact on patient welfare. If appropriate, the owners are invited to participate in this open discussion. Hospital-wide we encourage an open and transparent culture that allows any staff member to request ethical review if there are any concerns about patient welfare at any time.
At AURA, you can access an extensive breadth of experience and expertise under one roof. Because cancer makes up almost 80% of what we do, the whole team understand the emotional challenges that managing a pet with cancer can bring.
The surgeons at AURA are the most experienced cancer veterinary surgeons working in the UK, with a collective experience of over 50 years working almost exclusively with cancer patients. The team share a positive outlook on cancer management and a unifying philosophy of putting the patient first while challenging out-of-date dogma. This ensures that patients at AURA receive the best available surgical advice and treatment providing the highest chance of a return to a happy life.
The medical oncology service will typically manage blood-derived cancers such as lymphoma or leukaemia, but also provide essential support to the surgeons. This may be to help gain better control of a tumour prior to surgery, or provide treatment to manage microscopic disease that may remain in the body following surgery. Even if a cure is not possible, the medical oncology service may provide a patient the opportunity to gain sufficient control of their disease to enjoy a more prolonged and happy life.
Interventional Oncology is becoming increasingly established as an essential and independent ‘fourth’ pillar of multidisciplinary oncologic care, alongside Medical, Surgical, and Radiation Oncology. Interventional Oncology enables us to provide minimally invasive, image-guided diagnosis and treatment of a variety of cancer conditions. These treatments may provide improved outcomes when no other solutions had previously existed.
Radiation uses a beam of particles to painlessly damage cancer cells. It is often used in combination with surgery, for example the main mass is removed first and radiation is then used to kill any remaining cells left behind. The beam is generated in a large machine and is targeted at the cancer, or the surgical scar, whilst the patient is anaesthetised. Radiation is not usually a single treatment, rather daily or weekly for multiple doses. The radiation service will be available at AURA soon, but in the meantime we work with our veterinary colleagues at other radiation centres to support our patients when we believe radiation therapy is indicated.
Find out more about
Max is an eight-year-old Shih Tzu, who was enjoying a cuddle with his mum when she felt a small lump on his neck, near his throat.
He happened to have an appointment at his local vet the following day so she decided to ask the vet if this was normal. Upon examining Max, the vet discovered there was a mass on the right side of the trachea. This was definitely not normal, so they decided to do a fine needle aspirate in order to examine some of the cells from the mass. Unfortunately, the aspirates were inconclusive, so Max was booked in for a biopsy. A larger sample of tissue was extracted from the core of the mass and it was then sent off for analysis.
Find out more about