Some Cancers Are Curable. Most Are Treatable.

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the February newsletter and this editorial dedicated to Veterinary Oncology. As many of you are aware, February 4 is World Cancer Day, the international day marked to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.

What do we understand under the word cancer? Cancer describes a large number of diseases with the common feature of uncontrolled cell growth and proliferation. Neoplastic diseases have not been described only in humans and pets, but also in other species from every group of the animal kingdom as well as in plants.

It is widely accepted that cancer is a genetic disease, however, it is not always hereditary. Tumors arise from the accumulation of mutations in somatic cells that lead to uncontrolled behavior, immortality and expansion of cells. Some of these occur due to extrinsic factors (such as environmental mutagens), others due to intrinsic ones (disabled tumor suppressor genes, activated proto-oncogenes, etc. ).

Cancer has already surpassed other conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, as the leading cause of death in people across many European countries and is considered to be the main cause of death in companion animals. This gives us, vets, great opportunity to play a major role in advancing the understanding of cancer biology, prevention and its treatment from a comparative oncology standpoint. Therefore, companion animals with spontaneously occurring cancer present an excellent model for expanding our understanding of this disease from aetiology to its management across species.

With this in mind, veterinarians should consider the vast array of therapeutic options available for our patients that have changed cancer diagnosis from an acute life threatening disorder to a chronic manageable condition without compromise in the quality of life of the patient.

Advances in cancer therapeutics, such as targeted therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, interventional oncology as well as extensive options for providing palliative care, help prolong our patients’ lives, but also the well-being of their owners when they can lead a fulfilling life together. It is therefore crucial that we keep up with the novelties within this field and continue to seek the best possible treatments for our patients with cancer!

Kind regards,
Špela Bavčar DVM DipECVIM-CA (Oncology) MRCVS
EBVS® European Veterinary Specialist in Small Animal Oncology
RCVS recognised Specialist in Veterinary Oncology
Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Oncology; Head of Oncology
The University of Edinburgh, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies


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