Targeted Radiation Studied as Therapy for Oral Cancer

Treatment of oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC) has traditionally relied upon surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation — with disappointing results. Cats with the rapidly spreading cancer, which accounts for 10 percent of all feline tumors, suffer pain when eating, drinking, grooming and breathing. Many are in such distress that they are euthanized.

A study at Colorado State University is testing a new treatment called stereotactic radiation therapy, used in human medicine. Susan M. LaRue, DVM, Ph.D., combines X-rays and special computers to deliver higher doses of radiation than usual over a shorter period of time. The targeted radiation seeks to limit damage to tissue, produce fewer side effects and, as a result, improve cats’ quality of life during treatment.

Signs of OSCC include an enlarged jaw, red and swollen gums, bad breath, and difficulty chewing and swallowing. The disease is often recognized too late to respond to treatment.