Cyrano, a 10-year-old orange tabby cat, is recovering at home in Virginia after receiving treatment for bone cancer in his left rear leg at Colorado State University’s Animal Cancer Center. Cyrano is believed to be the one of the first cats in the nation to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment for osteosarcoma.
Cyrano’s size – weighing in at 28 pounds – made it impossible for him to maintain a quality of life if veterinarians were to amputate his leg. Amputation is the typical treatment for cats with bone cancer and, unfortunately, many diagnosed cats are not treated at all.
Cyrano’s owner, Sandy Lerner, a co-founder of Cisco Systems, refused to accept a dim prognosis for Cyrano when he was diagnosed on March 9 after he began limping.
“Everyone told me we had to amputate Cyrano’s leg, but I did not think he would do well with three legs, given that he weighs 28 pounds, and my veterinarian agreed. I called several universities and spoke with four veterinarians and did a week of research. In the end, everyone said that if anyone could save Cyrano’s leg, it would be Dr. Withrow at the Animal Cancer Center,” said Lerner of Dr. Stephen Withrow, the center’s director. CSU’s Animal Cancer Center is the largest center of its kind in the world, seeing about 5,000 appointments for animals – mainly dogs and cats, but other four-legged friends as well – with cancer a year.
Soon after his arrival at CSU, Cyrano underwent a highly specialized treatment called stereotactic radiosurgery. This targeted treatment is available on the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Varian Trilogy linear accelerator – the only radiation delivery machine of its kind in the world at a veterinary hospital. SRS is a treatment designed to precisely destroy tumors while preventing amputation and has been performed at CSU on 37 dogs, 100 percent of which exhibited complete eradication of the tumor site locally in follow-up analyses.
Cyrano, whom Lerner picked from a litter of barn cats on her farm when he was a kitten, was first given a whole-body CT scan, which indicated no metastasis from the leg site. He was then treated three times with SRS radiotherapy without complication and discharged the day after his final treatment. He also received the first dose of chemotherapy as an adjuvant to the SRS and is continuing treatment in Virginia. Since being home, he is “nearly back to his old self,” and Lerner wants his story to benefit other cat owners.
Cancer is the leading cause of death for pet dogs and cats in the United States; as many as 50 percent of cats and dogs die of cancer. Cancer in pets often is treatable with specialized medical intervention. Many of the same treatments that are available for humans are now available for pets, said Dr. Withrow. For more information, visit the Animal Cancer Center.