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College of Veterinary Medicine and the North Carolina Animal Cancer Program

 The North Carolina Animal Cancer Program, or NCACP, began in 1984 and is a component of the NC State University Veterinary Health Complex at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

In addition to being multidisciplinary, the program is multi-institutional and involves collaborative activities with Colorado State University, Duke University Medical Center, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The primary functions of the NCACP are:

  • To provide a comprehensive treatment center for pets with cancer;
  • To provide students in the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM)  instruction in clinical and investigative oncology;
  • To provide residency programs in medical and radiation oncology;
  • To provide graduate study in fields relating to cancer biology and/or treatment;
  • To conduct research in cancer-related fields.

Treatment of cancer in pets. The North Carolina Animal Cancer Program promotes an comprehensive approach to managing cancer in animals. Cancer therapy is a rigorous undertaking, requiring multidisciplinary diagnostic and treatment capabilities.

CVM personnel and advanced medical technology support NCACP activities.  Current treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hyperthermia, and canine bone marrow transplants. In addition, the multi-institutional nature of the program offers access to the latest cancer-related information and treatment strategies developed by any of the collaborative partners.

Pets with cancer are typically elderly and the bond with these animals often mean difficult decisions regarding their quality of life have to be made. The program provides the advice and expertise to help make and implement the best decision concerning the pet’s welfare.

When a patient is referred for evaluation, the pet is examined and information is  presented to the owner that describes what tests are necessary to determine a diagnosis or, if the diagnosis is known, what treatment options are recommended.

Research efforts. The NCACP has a long and productive history of studying tumor biology and novel treatment methods. These findings are shared with veterinarians treating animal cancer and with physicians treating human cancer. Ongoing NCACP research involves:

  • Study of tumor heating (hyperthermia) as a cancer treatment method;
  • Targeted drug delivery via gene therapy and liposources;
  • Cytogenetic abnormalities and abnormalities in protein expression of tumors;
  • Development of targeted radiotherapy.

Liaison with Duke University Medical Center. There has been fruitful collaboration with investigators at Duke University Medical Center since 1984. Drs.  Mark Dewhirst and Jeannie Poulson, both veterinarians and members of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Duke University Medical Center, are involved with investigations of new cancer therapy and studies of cancer biology in pets. Drs. Dewhirst and Poulson hold adjunct faculty appointments in the College of Veterinary Medicine and several CVM faculty hold adjunct faculty appointments at Duke University Medical Center and are members of the Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Care Center.

Treatments pets receive as part of the program often benefit humans with cancer. One example is the success the CVM has had in employing hyperthermia as part of the treatment for certain canine tumors. Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Care Center now incorporates hyperthermia in treating breast cancer in women.