Virginia Tech opens first of its kind animal cancer care facility

Local News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Virginia Tech’s Carilion School of Medicine has a new addition: an animal cancer care and research center (ACCRC).

“We are very very pleased to be able to offer that to this region of Virginia and beyond, as well,” said interim Director of ACCRC, Dr. Joanna Tuohy.

Tuohy knows the facility will service more than the immediate community in southwest Virginia. Already, she says, one client has already driven a pet in from New Jersey, and inquiries have come in from as far as California.

It comes as no surprise to Tuohy, for she says her team is able to offer clients and their pets expert advice and service in the field of oncology.

“We have the ability to provide radiation therapy, surgery for our patients, as well as medical oncology care,” Tuohy listed.

“Basically like the next step in cancer care,” said Stefanie Olsen, a technician at ACCRC who also is a client.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, normal clients would have to drop their pets off at the door.

Olsen gets a pass on that rule, since she’s works at the center. Her cat Street currently has lymphoma in his G.I. system.

“He’s doing really well,” Olsen said, optimistically. “The treatment for his particular disease is oral chemotherapy, so it’s nice because I can give it to him at home.”

Jessica Lawson and her son Kaden Hawkins are among the clients who have to drop their pet, in their case their boxer Lucy, off at the door.

“All of her treatment was done without us even stepping foot in the door,” Lawson said with a chuckle.

Pet owners like Olsen, Lawson, and Hawkins say they’re happy to have a center like this right in their back yard.

“Even if it’s just a year or two, if you can make sure they’re not in pain and you get extra time with them, that means the world to people,” Lawson said.

“I’m really grateful for this being here because I know if it wasn’t she might still have it on her (Lucy),” Hawkins said. She would have to live with a softball sized tumor for the rest of her life.”

“It’s not an automatic death sentence,” Olsen said. “They can get more time.”

Tuohy went on to say that the facility aims to help more than just animals. The results from testing and treating, she hopes, will play a part in helping human patients with cancer, as well.

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