Dr. Michael Deveau, Radiation Oncologist and Clinical Associate Professor at the University, began following the news of emerging 3D printing in the veterinary space several years ago. He saw a potential for the technology in his practice both as a teaching tool and surgical aide, but what originally piqued his interest was something a little off the beaten path.
It was the plight of a small dog named Cootie that ultimately fueled the university’s acquisition of Gigabot. Cootie and her desperate owner travelled from New Jersey to Texas, hoping to get her on an experimental trial for her Cutaneous Lymphoma, a rare type of cancer that affects the skin.
The treatment employed in humans applies radiation shallowly so that it treats the skin without reaching and damaging internal organs. The treatment requires the patient to rotate so they lay on their side, on their stomach, and on their back as the radiation is applied.
Veterinarians deemed this treatment impossible to clinically implement among animals because they could not be compelled to hold their body a certain way for an extended period of time. This means a death sentence for animals affected by the disease. With the skin barrier protecting their body from the outside world compromised, animals either succumb to infection or have a loss of quality of life to such a point that their owners elect euthanasia.
Dr. Deveau had a different plan in mind for Cootie…
Employing Gigabot, he set about using 3D printing in a fashion never before employed in the veterinary field. Dr. Deveau created a mould specifically tailored to encase Cootie. Vets then placed anesthetized Cootie in the case, which held her still throughout treatment and enabled precise rotations of her body.
One benefit of the shell is that it absorbs some of the radiation. The radiation bounces between the shell and the skin, creating a refractory effect and slowing down the treatment so it is less damaging to the patient.
Deveau is eager to point out that this was only one patient, but the results they achieved were nothing short of astounding. Dr. Deveau hopes that the technique he’s developed can be adopted by other treatment centers around the world to address those animals diagnosed each year with this previously untreatable condition.