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It was his experience on Pfizer’s veterinary team responsible for the launch of the first cancer drug for dogs when Dr. Chad Johannes found his passion for oncology.
“During the launch I developed a keen interest in cell biology and why oncologists treat the way they do,” said Dr. Johannes, assistant professor of small animal internal medicine and oncology at Iowa State’s Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center. That led Johannes to pursue board certification in oncology, 10 years after earning his board certification in internal medicine. He is the only board-certified oncologist in Iowa.
“We are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Johannes join our faculty here at Iowa State,” said Dr. Tom Johnson, director of hospital operations at the LVMC. “We are excited about adding his expertise to that of Dr. Leslie Fox’s in our oncology section to expand our ability to help our patients with cancer and provide additional resources for veterinarians throughout Iowa and the surrounding states.”
Johannes practices a patient-centered approach to oncology. “For me, it’s all about quality of life. How can we positively impact the quality of life as we are treating our patients – maybe it’s just for a few weeks or months, sometimes it’s a few years, depending on the cancer.”
According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation website, “Cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, while cats get fewer cancers.”
“Pets are living longer, and veterinary medical care and diagnostic imaging are getting better so we are diagnosing cancer more frequently,” Johannes says.
When asked what is the oncologist’s best tool, Johannes quickly responds, “The surgeon. If our surgeons can remove it, then the cancer can potentially be cured if it has not spread elsewhere.”
Most medical oncologists, though, are typically left with chemotherapy as a treatment. Today, says Johannes, oncology therapy for animals is becoming more targeted, more individualized as it is in human medicine. “Instead of one silver bullet, it is likely to be smaller bullets that help us move the needle with regard to response.”
The field of oncology has grown tremendously in the past decade. The number of resident training programs has increased, leading to more oncologists. Access has also increased. “It used to be that a university hospital was the only place to find an oncologist, now there are a number of private specialty practices in the Midwest with an oncologist.”
A native of Nebraska, Johannes was drawn to Iowa State because of its Midwest location and its joint program with the University of Nebraska. He has worked in private specialty practices, as well as on faculty at Kansas State University and Mississippi State University. He earned his DVM from Kansas State University.