One lucky dog: Cancer treatment saves pooch’s leg

College Station, The Eagle

An 8-year-old Great Pyrenees named Rowdy was the recipient Friday of a cutting-edge surgery at Texas A&M to treat bone cancer.

Veterinarians used a specially designed microdrill to poke into the 81-pound dog’s front right leg to inject radioactive cancer-fighting isotopes directly into the tumor.

The osteosarcoma tumor generally has a 90 percent fatality rate, and the current standard of care is to amputate the leg and follow with chemotherapy.

But removing a leg from a pooch Rowdy’s size can be limiting and painful, and long-term success isn’t guaranteed, vets said at the Texas Institute for Preclinical Studies on Raymond Stotzer Parkway.

So owners were reluctant to amputate, instead searching for relief and control, if not a cure, of the tumor.

“We’re just trying to give these dogs a better quality of life for as long as we can,” said Theresa Fossum, director of TIPS.

The procedure is known as liquid brachytherapy. The surgeon used a tiny drill with a diameter of .017 of an inch that was designed by Houston-based Valco Instruments

Rowdy, who was unconscious during the surgery with his tongue hanging from his mouth, was lucky, Fossum said, because his owners, the Cordts family from San Antonio, noticed a lump on his leg and quickly sought treatment.

Osteosarcoma is the same malignant bone tumor seen in human children, said Mark Lenox, director of imaging for TIPS. It is the most common cancerous bone tumor in youth, and it usually appears during adolescence, tending to occur in the shin, thigh and upper arm.

“So we’re treating dogs and that’s good — they’re getting leading-edge treatment,” Lenox said. “But what we’re really targeting is how to cure this in children.”

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