Chemotherapy for cancer causes severe side effects in many people. Patients may lose their hair, become weak, and suffer from extreme nausea. Some patients feel that the treatment is worse than the disease.
In cats and dogs, side effects from chemotherapy usually aren’t as severe. In fact, many pets tolerate entire courses of chemo without showing any side effects whatsoever. But not every pet that is treated for cancer is so lucky–side effects do occur sometimes.
Therefore, an article in the April 18, 2008 issue of The Week offers encouraging news for pets and people who are diagnosed with cancer. An excerpt from the article follows.
A new technique minimizes the nausea and other side effects of chemotherapy at the same time that it kills more cancer cells. Curiously, the method isn’t a drug or a therapy, but an extremely restrictive diet: Patients are told to starve themselves for two days before every dose of the toxic chemotherapy drugs.
The method works by causing normal cells in the body to enter a state in which they are less affected by the chemo drugs. Cancer cells, however, do not enter this state and therefore are still susceptible.
Although the method appears promising, I confess that I have some reservations. Weight loss and emaciation are common among animal cancer patients, and I personally would be extremely hesitant to withhold food for two days from an already underweight animal.
However, studies on the technique are still in the early stages. As we learn more, it may turn out that the method could help some pets as well as people.