The majority of cancers in animals arise spontaneously, but the fact they share our environment in terms of houses, air quality, lifestyle, water and often food, is increasingly being recognised as an important development in comparative oncology research.
Cancers in animals are typically diagnosed through combinations of blood work, diagnostic imaging, cytology, and tissue biopsies, and are typically treated through a combination of medical, surgical, radiation and interventional oncology. Palliative care for pets, and owner perception of quality of life is also a potential area for research.
AURA Veterinary - University of Surrey School of Veterinary Medicine
Equipment & Resources
- -80 freezer and dedicated veterinary tumour archive
- 160-slice Toshiba CT scanner
- Advanced ultrasound machine for contrast-enhanced sentinel lymph node mapping, and locoregional anesthesia
- Vault designed and constructed for linear accelerator
- 4 theatres including one dedicated for minimally invasive surgery / interventional techniques
- Chemotherapy hood and 2 dedicated chemotherapy rooms
- Cell-Saver available for intra-operative autologous blood transfusions, or bench-top auto-transfusion research
- Patient database of over 7000 patients with long-term follow-up
AURA Veterinary (www.auravet.com) is a large purpose-built centre animal cancer hospital on the Surrey Research Park which opened in Sept 2015 and was rebranded in August 2022. The vision and goal of the centre is to provide an environment of cutting-edge cancer care for animals, along with promoting and conducting education and clinical research on oncologic projects with benefit to veterinary patients but also having translational and comparative subtexts. Since opening over 12,000 patients have benefitted from the centre’s expertise. All patients are family-owned animals (pets) and treatments are funded privately, or through pet insurance when appropriate.
The centre has highly trained surgical, medical and interventional oncologists, along with radiologists using advanced diagnostic equipment to accurately stage spontaneous tumours, and provide additional information such as surgical resectability, and the sentinel lymph nodes (mapping via lymphangiography with a 160-slice CT scanner or via contrast-enhanced ultrasound). The centre also has the busiest Interventional Radiology and Oncology program in Europe. A footprint for a linear accelerator bunker is onsite with the radiation service expected to be arriving soon.
In addition to clinical case management, all cancer patients are recorded and coded on a patient database and are subsequently followed, with details recorded including signalment, definitive diagnosis and outcome (over 7000 patients to date). The centre also houses the only biobank in the UK dedicated to archiving tissue from naturally-occurring animal cancers. The tissue is harvested ex vivo from patients undergoing surgery and has approval from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Ethics Committee. Investments such as these prompted AURA Veterinary to be awarded Business Innovation of the Year in 2022 at the Surrey Business Awards.
The Clinical Director of AURA Veterinary is Professor Nick Bacon, who also holds a part-time Professorship in Surgical Oncology at the Veterinary School at the University of Surrey. Nick moved to Surrey at the end of 2014 having worked in the field of oncology, specifically surgical oncology, in private and academic centres in both the UK and USA.
The surgical oncology team also includes Dr Laurent Findji and Dr Jonathan Bray who are both board-certified small animal surgeons with a predominantly surgical oncology caseload. Together, the three surgeons are the most experienced surgical oncology team in the UK.
The Medical Oncology program at AURA is staffed by three boarded Medical Oncology Specialists, Dr Iain Grant, Dr Quentin Fournier and Dr Yike Bing. Collectively they bring a wealth of clinical experience and research interests. Dr Gerard McLauchlan, a board-certified internal medicine clinician leads the Interventional Oncology program. Dr Alex Horton, Consultant Radiologist at the Royal Surrey County Hospital provides clinical and professional guidance and advice on the more complex tertiary interventional oncology and radiology referrals seen at AURA. The team is also assisted by Dr Magda Ferou-Geriani, a board-certified internal medicine clinician.
Dr Sergio Guilherme and Dr Audrey Petite provide Diagnostic Imaging expertise via radiography, ultrasonography, and CT modalities.
Dr Daisy Norgate and Dr Tyfane Yamaoka are the Hospital anaesthetists with huge experience in sedating and anaesthetising small animal cancer patients (mostly dogs, cats, rabbits, but able to offer advice on all veterinary species), and both have interests in managing acute and chronic pain and improving quality of life for cancer patients.
AURA Veterinary is a scholarly organisation and seat of science, aiming to be recognised as a centre for innovation, making discoveries that are changing thinking around animal cancers and even enlightening understanding and treatment around cancer in humans. A list of all peer-reviewed publications in international veterinary journals by the veterinarians while working at AURA is available at https://www.auravet.com/innovation/