Colorado State University on Thursday celebrated the opening of an expanded and improved hospital unit dedicated to the evaluation and care of animal patients with cancer, marking a new era in the university’s longstanding leadership in veterinary oncology.
The Lucy Oncology Clinic – named for a Rottweiler patient with bone cancer – encompasses 4,100 square feet in CSU’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital and is part of the university’s renowned Flint Animal Cancer Center, which treats animal patients while providing findings that improve cancer care for both pets and people.
The renovation is the largest clinical service upgrade to date in a series of construction projects that began at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in 2010 and will continue through 2020 at a cost of more than $20 million. Philanthropic donations supply funding for remodeling that ensures state-of-the-art care in a facility that opened in 1979 and counts more than 40,000 patient visits annually, said Dr. Timothy Hackett, hospital director.
Veterinary medicine has changed dramatically in nearly four decades since the region’s main referral hospital opened off Drake Road on CSU’s South Medical Campus: The field comprises numerous medical specialties, from cardiology to orthopedics, that mirror those in human medicine and require advanced facilities to train veterinary students and to deliver leading-edge care for patients. At the same time, many animal owners now regard their pets as family members and expect standards of teaching and care matching those in human medicine.
The oncology remodel is notable for consolidating aspects of patient examination and treatment that earlier were scattered through the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The Lucy Oncology Clinic enhances efficiencies and communication while providing technological updates that improve patient and staff comfort, such as soundproofing and tunable LED lighting, which mimics sun path.
“It’s an important milestone for the hospital and our cancer center,” said Dr. Rodney Page, a medical oncologist and director of CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center. “We are incredibly grateful for all of our friends whose donations have made this renovation possible for the benefit of thousands of companion animal patients that visit us every year.”
Cost of the renovation project was $1.75 million, with a lead gift of $1.5 million from dog lover and supporter Jeffrey Neu of California and his brother Robert Neu of New York City.
Jeffrey Neu brought his beloved dog, Lucy, to CSU in 2011 for analysis of recurrent osteosarcoma with advanced imaging equipment that is unusual in veterinary medicine. The Rottweiler underwent Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography (PET-CT) scans, which allowed early detection of metastasized bone cancer, followed by chemotherapy and precisely targeted radiation; the treatments extended Lucy’s life and improved her quality of life until she succumbed to the disease.
“Lucy was my best friend, and I brought her to CSU for the very best veterinary cancer care available,” said Neu, who will help dedicate the Lucy Oncology Clinic during a celebratory event on Thursday afternoon. “It’s gratifying to know that my gift will help the Flint Animal Cancer Center deliver leading-edge care to many other pets whose families hold them dear.”
Other donors to the project include Bets Keen of Carlisle, Pa.; the estate of Patt Hall of Fort Collins; and David and Maxine Pierce of Farmington, Minn., in tribute to their relatives Millard M. and Bertha Mae Schindler, The Elred Foundation and Big Heart Pet Brands. Artwork for the space was donated by Jay Snellgrove, CSU alumnus and artist; framer Brian Hart; and Thomas D. Mangelsen, internationally acclaimed nature photographer.
The Flint Animal Cancer Center manages 25 to 35 patients per day, or about 6,000 appointments per year; it provides an additional 3,000 consultations each year by phone and email. The center has trained more surgical, medical and radiation oncologists than any other veterinary institution in the world. It also houses the largest group of scientists studying and treating naturally occurring cancer in pets, and maintains robust research collaborations with the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
“We now have the facility that matches our mission in excellent, multidisciplinary care,” Page said. “The Lucy Oncology Clinic allows the team to be more efficient and interactive within one beautiful space. The clinic facilitates our team-based approach to multi-modality patient care, in which medical, surgical and radiation oncology specialists provide input in a single appointment for every patient.”
The new clinic houses a dedicated space for clinical trials, among other features. The embedded space allows for ease of patient referrals and improved collaboration in the quest for new cancer treatments with fewer side-effects, significant because cancer is the leading cause of death in older pets.
“We really appreciate the tremendous support we receive from our donors,” said Dr. Mark Stetter, dean of the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “These enhancements allow us improved abilities to educate veterinarians, to conduct important clinical trials, and to provide the best care possible for our veterinary cancer patients.”