New LINAC up and running

Georgeanne Yesbeck and her sister, Myrtle Isaacs, with their dog, Cappie, the ceremonial first case treated via the UF Small Animal Hospital's new linear accelerator.

By Sarah Carey

The UF Veterinary Hospitals marked a key milestone last month when the first patients were treated with radiation therapy provided via a new state-of-the-art linear accelerator (LINAC) that was installed in the new hospital when it opened last November, but which just recently became fully operational.

The very first patient treated, Cappie Isaacs, an 8-year-old toy poodle, was discharged March 24 after receiving 3 1/2 weeks of conventional fractionated radiation therapy to treat a low grade, soft tissue sarcoma in his carpus, or wrist bone. Cappie had previously received surgery to remove the sarcoma, but the entire tumor was not able to be removed.

Cappie is owned by sisters Georgeanne Yesbeck and Myrtle Isaacs, who live at The Villages. Their veterinarian, Dr. Amy Barnett, referred Cappie to UF.

“The goal of the radiation therapy is to kill any remaining cancer cells, and we are hopeful that this will allow us to save Cappie’s leg,” said Dr. Shannon Parfitt, a UF veterinary oncology resident. “He had 18 treatments of radiation, Monday through Friday for 3 1/2 weeks with a quick anesthesia each day prior to the treatments.”

Parfitt added, “He really is a sweet boy, and it was a pleasure for us to get to take care of him while he stayed with us during the week.”

Yesbeck said Cappie had been a member of her family since December 2002 when he was about six months old.

“When we moved to Florida from Virginia, we had lost our three dogs to various problems,” Yesbeck said. “But after a year here, we decided it was time, so we went out looking for a dog.”

The sisters canvassed local veterinarians, asking if anyone knew of a small dog needing a home. Soon they found Cappie, whose owner was moving and could no longer keep him.

“He is king of the neighborhood,” Yesbek said.

Veterinary oncology technician Blaine Seese, left, positions Chipper Bailey, a 10-year-old chocolate Labrador, for radiation treatment. Anesthesia technician Amanda Shelby is at right.

Soon after Cappie began his treatment at UF, a 10-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever owned by Glen Bailey of Ocala, became the second patient to receive treatment via the LINAC. His treatments, also consisting of conventional fractionated radiation, ended in late March. Like Cappie, Chipper was treated for a soft tissue sarcoma on his carpus.

Two other patients came close behind: Gracie Vogel and Nikki Johnson. However, the treatment these dogs received was more advanced in the sense that some of the more sophisticated capabilities associated with the new LINAC were used.

“Both of these dogs had radiation treatment plans that were created with computed tomography (CT) scans, which were obtained using the main hospital scanner,” said Dr. Jim Farese, chief of the veterinary oncology service. “Our LINAC is state-of-the-art and has a CT scanner ‘on board.’ This on-board imaging allows us to position the area that needs to be treated under the beam with superior accuracy, and illustrates the power of this particular machine.”

He added that UF was the only facility in this part of the country that was capable of offering such sophisticated image-guided radiotherapy, and that the cone-beam CT scanner associated with the LINAC enabled UF veterinary oncologists to treat a very small (3 centimeters by 3 centimeters) area in the brain stem of one of the dogs.

“Lastly, the oncology service has been treating dogs and cats with various cancers with stereotactic radiosurgery through a collaboration with the UF Department of Neurosurgery for more than 10 years,” Farese said. Stereotactic radiosurgery involves the delivery of a single, large dose of radiation, which requires pinpoint accuracy.

In the past, these treatments were performed at the human facility nearby at Shands, but with help from Dr. Frank Bova, a medical physicist in the department of neurosurgery, UF veterinary oncologists have just added the SRS equipment package to the new LINAC, Farese said.

“These procedures are now being performed on site,” Farese said. “We really want everyone to know that we are up and running and ready for all kinds of cases, whether through conventional radiation therapy or those cases that require the more advanced image-guidance capabilities. Through our link with Dr. Bova’s group, we are able to offer cutting-edge radiation treatment options that one would only find at a human hospital, and do so right here at the vet school.”

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