MU acquires new technology to detect cancer

The University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine is now the fourth veterinary school in the country to boast positron emission tomography (PET) technology, a new technology used to detect cancer in dogs and cats.

The PET scanner is the only veterinary PET scanner in Missouri, and is one of only a few in the country, according to a news release from the university.

The scanner is unique because it requires minimal anesthesia and can be used as a powerful imaging tool to detect cancer in dogs and cats and determine whether the disease has spread. When combined with computed tomography (CT) scans, veterinary oncologists can co-register an abnormality, generating a three-dimensional image that shows both the metabolism of a growth as well as its size.

According to a MU news release, a radiograph is limited because it can reveal that an animal has nodules in its lungs, but cannot determine whether those nodules are tumors or just scar tissue from old infections.

Conversely, if a tumor is still showing metabolic activity, a clinician may consider a different course of treatment, such as adding or changing the chemotherapy protocol. PET scans are also useful in seeking out cancers that may be hiding somewhere in an animal’s body.

The scans involve introducing radioactive glucose into an animal’s bloodstream and using the device to look for increased metabolic activity, measured by abnormally increased uptake of the glucose as occurs in tumors. Alternative radioactive tracers can also be used to detect areas of increased cell growth and areas of altered oxygen usage.

The scanner can also be used for infections, evidence of fracture healing and abnormal bone activity and the source of seizure activity.

The scanner was purchased using a gift from a couple who had lost their St. Bernard to bone cancer.
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