A rescue cat is the first pet in Britain to be cured of cancer after undergoing pioneering treatment which uses electric shocks to blast tiny holes in the tumour.
Former stray Tigga was saved following “unprecedented” electrochemotherapy, which experts hope could be used in humans in the future.
The ground-breaking procedure targets only cancerous cells – unlike normal chemotherapy which also damages healthy cells.
Incredibly, just 44 days after having the treatment to get rid of the aggressive tumour on her nose, Tigga was in complete remission.
Electrochemotherapy is a treatment which is given in two stages.
Firstly, the pet is given a mild dose of intravenous chemotherapy before a probe passes a very precise electrical charge to the area in and around the tumour.
This temporarily blasts open tiny holes in the cells, big enough to allow the drug to enter, which then close again in microseconds.
This means the drug will only attack cancerous cells, unlike normal chemotherapy, which also kills healthy cells.
Tigga’s owners, sound engineer Paul Carter and bookkeeper Clare Woodley, both 39, discovered she was unwell when she struggled to walk and maintain balance last year.
Paul, of Surbiton, Greater London, said: “Clare is from South Africa originally and when she moved to the UK Tigga came with her.
“She has been healthy, bouncy cat, but had this tumour – it emerged last year, it got bigger and bigger and our vet tried various different creams to try and clear it up and decided nothing was working.
“We had a biopsy done and it came back as cancerous, so they put us touch with a specialist vets who offered new electrochemotherapy treatment.
“We thought we’d give it a go because at the time, Tigga was in one of those cones on her neck and she kept scratching and splitting her nose open and it would bleed and scab up.
“Just as it was almost healing, she would scratch it and it would flare up again.
“When they came back with the cancer diagnosis it was a choice of leave her and hope it doesn’t get any bigger – but it’s a rubbish quality of life.
“Although she was old, apart from the tumour she was bouncy and hopefully has a few more years left in her.
“We first noticed it at the beginning of last year, a little mark.
“In June of last year it started to get bigger, and in October she underwent the treatment.
“We were told if she doesn’t have the treatment it would gradually get bigger, she’d have to stay in the collar, and it would move from the cartilage to the actual bone under her nose.
“That would mean she would be in constant pain and at that point you don’t want to leave them in constant pain if there’s nothing you can do.
“We would have been looking to have to have her put down.
“We tried the treatment and it looks like she’s got a brand new nose, compared to what it looked like before.
“After three weeks she was back to her old self and since then she is just getting better and better.
“As it stands, she has made a complete recovery and there is no sign of the tumour returning.”
Tigga was the first pet to be treated with electrochemotherapy at North Downs Specialist Referrals in Bletchingley, Surrey, which is the only vets’ in Britain to use the treatment.
Gerry Polton, clinical director of oncology at the vets, said: “Normal chemotherapy works on the principle of being more damaging to cancer than non-cancerous tissue.
“Some cancers are more resilient, so there are differences in how they respond to treatment, and this can cause more harm to the patient.
“Electrochemotherapy involves clever anatomical targeting of a specific site and is an effective way of protecting healthy cells.
“The results we are seeing in cases like Tigga’s are unprecedented and we are learning about the procedure all the time.”