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Sounding off about oral cancer

By Allison Tonini

research looks into treatments to help beat this painful disease  

Oral cancer is a devastating disease of cats that becomes more common as a cat ages. Feline oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), the most common oral tumor diagnosed in cats, is particularly serious because it is generally recognized too late for it to respond to treatment. The rapid progression of the tumor can be debilitating—preventing a cat from eating, chewing, swallowing, grooming and even breathing. Even with aggressive treatment, OSCC has a grave prognosis.

Currently, four Morris Animal Foundation–funded researchers are investigating OSCC. These researchers hope to develop novel methods to advance oral cancer treatment in cats.

In one study, Dr. Susan M. LaRue, of Colorado State University, is testing the use of stereotactic radiation therapy, a new radiation therapy that involves giving patients higher doses of radiation over a shorter amount of time than traditional treatment. This more targeted treatment limits the dose of radiation to the tissue structures, producing fewer side effects and thereby improving a cat’s quality of life during treatment.

Dr. Elizabeth A. McNiel and Dr. Kevin Mayo, of Tufts University, are exploring a new treatment method that they hope will restrict a tumor’s blood supply. Because blood flow and the ability to create new blood vessels are necessary to sustain the growth of a cancerous tumor, preventing a tumor from establishing blood vessels and destroying blood vessels that already exist could be effective in treating OSCC. To do so, Dr. Mayo has created a small protein that disrupts the endothelial cells that form blood vessels, and the team is now evaluating its effectiveness in preventing growth of tumor blood vessels. If effective, this protein could lead to better treatment for this often fatal cancer.

Researchers from the Ohio State University, led by Dr. William C. Kisseberth, recently investigated a new class of anticancer drugs, called histone deacetylase inhibitors, as treatment for OSCC. These drugs have been found to inhibit tumor growth in humans and mice, and this study indicates that they have anticancer potential in cats, too. Although the drug has proven its efficacy, more clinical trials must be completed before it can be used in veterinary practice.

In another study out of the Ohio State University, fellow Dr. Smitha Pillai and mentor Dr. Thomas Rosol studied treatment options that prevent bone destruction. Bone loss from OSCC is directly associated with tooth loss, bone infection and immense pain, all of which negatively affect a cat’s quality of life. Their findings provide scientific evidence that combining bone resorption inhibitors with an antineosplastic drug shows promise for treating bone-invasive OSCC. The information will help in designing future clinical trials for cats suffering from this disease and will help veterinarians make treatment decisions based on scientific evidence rather than anecdotal outcomes.

Studies like these will keep cats meowing longer.

Related Links

Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats: Preclinical Therapy and Inhibition of Bone Resorption
Molecular Pathology to Elucidate Biology of Feline Squamous Cell Carcinoma
New Radiation Therapy for Oral Cancer


Posted by MAFon November 28, 2011.

Categories: Animal health, Cat health, Feline health

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Submitted by cynthia lee at: February 19, 2012
My cat was just recently diagnosed. I wish there was something available for me to try to help her NOW