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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

New Technologies for Brain Cancer Coming Up

Updated: November 15th, 2018

Brain cancer, both in pets and in people, is very difficult to deal with.

First, we have something called the blood-brain barrier.  This is not really a wall per se, but is rather just a feature of the tiny blood vessels in the brain.  These little capillaries have tight junctions that don’t let things pass from the blood into the brain.  These form a “barrier” between the blood and the brain.

The blood-brain barrier makes it difficult to get treatments into the brain.  We can take pills or give injections, but this only gets the treatment into the bloodstream. Next, it has to get from the blood into the brain, and since the capillaries in the brain don’t let many treatments pass through their walls, it is tough accessing brain cancers.

Another issue that makes tumors in the brain tough to deal with is the difficulty with surgery.  Since these tumors have healthy brain around them, and our dogs need this healthy tissue, it is difficult in many cases to remove the tumor without hurting the healthy brain.

On top of this, there are very few veterinary surgeons who have had the opportunity to train to competency in this area.

I previously posted on a homeopathic treatment (Ruta-6 with  Ca3(PO4)2 ), that has achieved remission in 7 out of 8 glioma patients.

Another item of interest is called the Cyberknife.  I was in Yonkers a few weeks ago and visited the Animal Specialty Center.  This is an excellent facility that houses the only Cyberknife for pets in the country.

The Cyberknife is a device that is particularly suited for treatment of tumors in the brain.  The apparatus emits radiation very rapidly, from a variety of directions in succession, and targets the tumor.  This allows the surrounding healthy brain tissue to receive minimal radiation, while the tumor gets a large dose.

(While there I was able to catch up with Dr. Sue Ettinger, a co-author of the upcoming second edition of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, which was great!)

Two new possible treatments have caught my attention recently. First, is a device that is still awaiting FDA approval, but looks promising and could likely be applied to veterinary medicine.  This one creates an electric field across the tumor site or areas (aptly called a Tumor Treatment Field, or TTF).

The device, made by NovoCure, is powered by a pack that weight about 7 or 8 pounds, and is attached to a headpiece which is worn continually during the treatment.  In the early trials, it seems that the survival of the patients treated with this approach roughly doubled.

Finally, at UC Davis, an experimental new treatment for brain tumors involves implantation of a port which allows chemotherapy to be injected directly into the brain, bypassing the blood-brain barrier.

Each of these represents ideas that have the potential to give us an edge on dog cancer.  If you would like more information on current tools you can use right now to help you and your loved dog, check out The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.


Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Redhedy on January 20, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    I asked our Neurologist at UF if they used the Cyberknife and they said they have something probably better–SRS? Thoughts on this?

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on January 29, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Hi. The terminology gets confusing, but CyberKnife is a brand name, and it IS a type for stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). Not sure which SRS unit they currently have there at UF.
      Hope this helps, Dr E

  2. Rachelle Sanborn on January 16, 2011 at 7:02 am

    My 12 year old Weimaraner was diagnosed with a primary meningioma in the brain stem 26 months ago. We treated her with fractional radiation 2 years ago. About 6 months ago she because weak on her left side and is now partialy paralyzed on her back left limb and can’t walk. Bella is now on your recommened dog cancer diet and taking curcumin 4 grams per day. We tried 5 rounds of Chemo(lomustrine) about 4 months ago but it had no positive effect. i ordered and downloaded The cancer survival guide but there is not a chapter on brain cancer so knowing that lomustrine had no effect and we cannot re-irradiate the tumor what supplements/foods/holistic approaches are best to cross the “blood brain barrier” to shrink this type of tumor?

    • DemianDressler on March 8, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      Dear Rachelle,
      you may have some luck with Ruta-6 (here), although this was for glioma.. and some of these newer ideas (here). I hope these give you some avenues for treatment!
      Dr D

  3. linda on November 29, 2010 at 4:42 am

    my dog is two yeqrs s/p osteosarcoma diagnosis. He had limb spare surgery, chemo and currently has chronic mersa infection at the op site for which he is on meds. His kidneys are showing degerneration,, i saw that you have info on diet for cancer dogs.. but it is oposite of what a dog with renal disease could use…. do you know where i can find a proper diet proportion that is healthy for renal/cancer? I know cancer is low carb and renal is low protein? so what is a correct diet? none of my vets have the answer

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