PetCure spots booming market for radiosurgery in pets with cancer

The founders of Chicago-based Accelitech, which operates the largest private network of centers that offer CyberKnife and other radiation-based surgical treatments to cancer patients, have identified a new opportunity: pet care. They announced Wednesday that they have launched a national network of centers under the name PetCure Oncology, where veterinarians will offer those radiation treatments, known as stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), for dogs and cats.

CyberKnife and other forms of SRS are used in human oncology to treat a number of cancer types, including brain tumors, lung cancer, and prostate cancer. Veterinarians use it, too, often to shrink tumors that are not ideally located for surgical removal, or to clean up stray cancer cells after surgery.

Problem is, there are fewer than 10 specialty veterinary centers in the U.S. that offer SRS, estimated Scott Milligan, CEO of PetCure Oncology, in a press release announcing the launch. "As a result, pet owners have had few options except to seek treatments that provide some comfort and pain management for as long as possible rather than cure the disease," he says.

PetCure opened its first center outside of Phoenix in May and is preparing to open a second in Cincinnati in August. The company says it is developing more locations across the country. PetCure is offering radiosurgery for more than 10 tumor types, including kidney cancer, brain cancer, and spinal tumors.

If the market for radiosurgery on the human side is any indication, PetCure's founders may be making a smart bet. Expanding use of radiotherapy in cancer treatments has driven the market for devices like CyberKnife, made by Accuray ($ARAY), up 5% a year to more than $4 billion. Varian Medical Systems ($VAR), which also makes devices for radiosurgery, is experiencing such strong demand it is considering expanding into emerging markets like China.

Veterinary oncologist Neal Mauldin, who will be serving as PetCure's medical chief, said in the launch release that the startup is consulting a scientific advisory team for advice on expanding the company and its offerings. "By adapting the successes discovered with SRS in treating human cancer, we are now able to successfully treat more types of cancer in pets," he said.

- here's the release