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Immunity is a term that describes a state of having sufficient biological defenses to avoid infection, disease or other unwanted biological invasion such as cancer. This defense is principally made up white blood cells and small protein cell-signaling molecules called cytokines. Thus the treatment of cancer or other disease by inducing, enhancing or suppressing an immune response is called immunotherapy. This broad term includes the use of immunomodulators which are naturally derived and synthetic preparations such as vaccines and medications that can be used for the treatment of cancer.

Most immunotherapies are designed to stimulate the immune system. However the alternate approach, suppressing the immune system can also be used. An example of when immune suppression might be indicated is when trying to overcome the body's immune tolerance of cancer. A condition where tumor cells inhibit the natural immune system defenses in order to survive.

Although extensive research in this complex area of cancer treatment is being conducted, many studies are still ongoing and only few agents have proven to be safe and beneficial. Recently great attention has been placed on vaccines which are defined as a biologic preparation that contains a weakened agent of the disease (bacteria, virus, tumor cell) or constituent of it (DNA, RNA, protein) given to improve immunity. An example of such therapy for the treatment of cancer in animals is the DNA based canine melanoma vaccine used to mitigate the high risk of tumor metastasis.

One well known immunomodulator in human oncology is Rituximab an antibody therapy used in the treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Although animals develop cancers similar to humans they are not identical. Therefore, agents such as Rituximab are not beneficial across species.

Whenever possible adjunctive therapies such as vaccines or immunotherapy will be used as adjunctive therapy. Your veterinary oncologist will discuss with you if immunotherapy may be a benefit for your pet.
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Cancer poses a significant risk to pets, particularly to aging and geriatric animals. Early cancer diagnoses and proper treatment can improve your pet’s quality of life and help him or her to live longer with fewer complications. You can be proactive in your pet’s well-being by observing your pet and reporting any physical and behavioral changes you see to your veterinarian. Remember that allowing your veterinarian an opportunity to detect problems early gives your pet the best chance at successful treatment and recovery.

Our oncology services include cancer screening, chemotherapy, and surgery. Your veterinarian will provide you with information about your pet’s condition and discuss which proven treatment options will most benefit your pet. In many cases, your veterinarian will consult with our oncology specialist, Dr. Steve Atwater, for treatment recommendations and possible outcomes so that you will receive all options that are available.

There are more oncology options than ever before, such as chemotherapy, surgery, nutritional support, and clinical trials. We understand that this can be a difficult time for you and your pet. We want to assure you that our primary goal is to enhance your pet’s quality of life and provide the most appropriate treatment solutions to fight the disease.

To schedule an appointment with our Oncology Specialist at VCA Encina Veterinary Medical Center, please call us at 925-937-5000 and ask for a consultation with Dr. Stephen Atwater.

Our Oncology Services

Bone Marrow Aspirate
Bone Marrow Transplant
Cancer Staging

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