Feline Cancer Treatment


Adenocarcinoma treatment

Question: Dear Dr. Richards,

We have an eleven year old male Persian cat (Virgil). He has undergone surgical resection of the colon for a mass that was creating intestinal blockage and constipation with bloody stools. Biopsies were taken of neighboring tissue, including lymph nodes. Our vet says that it was an adenocarcinoma (not specific) that has metastasized into the lymphatic system. He indicated that aggressive treatment such as chemotherapy and/or radiation would be largely ineffective and only make Virgil sick. He recommends TLC as the primary Tx.

Keeping in mind that we desire to do the absolute best we can for our friend we would be willing to undertake aggressive or even experimental therapy, providing the potential benefits are worth the risks or discomforts that Virgil would endure. I am searching throughout the internet and have not yet found any prospective treatments. If you are aware of anything promising greater extension than four months to a year with reasonable quality of life for Virgil would be grateful. Any other helpful suggestions would also be appreciated.

Lillian and Bernard

Answer: Lillian and Bernard-

At the present time I am not aware of any effective chemotherapeutic agents for adenocarcinoma arising from the digestive tract. There may be some benefit to radiation therapy but I am not certain of that. The best way to find out about any new therapies would be to talk with a veterinary oncologist, or to ask your vet to do this for you. Most of the veterinary schools have oncologists and there are a number of them in private practice at this time, too.

This link might be helpful: http://www.vetcancersociety.org/images/radiation.pdf

The main page for this site is http://www.vetcancersociety.org

Mike Richards, DVM

Chemotherapy and travel plans

Q: Dear Mike,

my parents have an older cat that has liver cancer. This cat receives chemotherapy once every 3 weeks. They are newly retired and are heading on a trip around the country with their cat. (Cleopatra) The question is is it possible and how do they do this with still making sure that Cleo receives her chemotherapy as needed. Not all vets administer this, I believe. Do you have any suggestions?

Thank You!


A: Carla-

Many veterinary hospitals do not administer chemotherapeutic agents. Some of these medications do require special precautions so many vets (including our practice) may not be prepared to help administer the chemotherapeutic agents. So this trip will require very special planning. It is likely that can be done, though. The first person I would ask for help from is the person currently handling the therapy. He or she may be able to figure out which dates will require a visit with a practice prepared to administer chemotherapy and to help arrange visits to clinics with that expertise. It would at least be worth asking before giving up on the trip or giving up on the chemotherapy. I hope they can make satisfactory arrangements.

Mike Richards, DVM

Radiation Therapy

Q: Dr. Richards,

Recently we wrote you about a suspected fibrosarcoma in our cat and thanks to your assistance we made the decision to return to the US for surgery. Last week our cat was operated on at CSU Veterinary Hospital and we just received the final lab results that it was a fibrosarcoma, rated at a 2(3 the worst), but all of the margins of the tissue removed were clean. Our cat is recovering nicely despite the aggressive surgery done on her. While we are receiving excellent care and advice at CSU we would like to get your opinion on radiation after surgery. Is it routinely done and how successful is it. We have been told at CSU that very few studies have been done on this, most radiation is done on inoperable tumors, but that it is a good precautionary measure. Given all of the trauma that our at has gone through we are not sure if another month in the hospital with daily radiation and anesthesia is best. Can you give us any insights.

Thank you, Scott

A: Scott-

I am not an oncologist so my opinion is based on attendance at a couple of seminars on oncology and the prevailing opinions on the Veterinary Information Network. The consensus of opinion appears to be just what you describe. The clinical impression of oncologists is that radiation is helpful but there hasn't been a lot of documentation of that, yet. We have used anesthesia on a frequent or even daily basis in a number of cats in order to treat various conditions without long term effects that I have recognized. Given the severity of this condition if it does recur I would lean towards having the radiation therapy done if it is economically feasible and you can spare the time. If that isn't possible I think that you have gone pretty far already in assuring that your cat has the best possible chance for survival and that there wouldn't be any reason to feel guilty later if it didn't work out well.

Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...