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Cats sought for cancer treatment test

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Cats with solid tumors may be eligible for an experimental treatment that is being tested at four U.S. veterinary schools.

The clinical trial aims to use microscopic particles and a laser to precisely target and destroy tumors that are nasal, oral or on or near the surface of the skin. It is occurring at Texas A&M University in College Station, the University of Georgia in Athens, the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Va.

Cat parents should live "within reasonable driving distance" of one of the schools, as participation includes several check-ups after the treatment, said Mindy Quigley, clinical trials coordinator at Virginia-Maryland. Although participation in the study is free of charge, a cat owner should expect to pay upfront costs for tests to confirm the exact diagnosis and verify that the cat meets the enrollment criteria. While the study is open to dogs as well, cats are in higher demand right now because the trial has so far drawn “very muted interest from cat owners,” Quigley told Aug. 8.

Researchers are trying to determine whether the treatment, called AuroLase Therapy, can provide long-term, local tumor control while avoiding the side effects of traditional anti-cancer methods, namely surgery and radiation. According to Houston-based Nanospectra Biosciences, which developed AuroLase, the treatment begins by intravenously delivering tiny, gold "nanoparticles," which then accumulate in the tumor's blood vessels. Light energy from a laser heats the particles, which proceed to “thermally destroy” the tumor while preserving healthy tissue, the company said.

More details about enrolling in the clinical trial are available here. Before contacting representatives of the study, cat parents are encouraged to discuss the enrollment criteria with their veterinarians.