Horses with cancer have a better chance of recovery from today thanks to the extension of a cancer therapy unit at the University of Cambridge.

The Queen’s Veterinary Hospital at the university is the only facility in Europe offering radiotherapy for horses.

Since 1991, the hospital has been using radiotherapy equipment donated by NHS. But yesterday it opened a new building to house a new radiotherapy machine designed to treat all animals large and small.

Veterinary oncologist Dr Jane Dobson told H&H: “We haven’t treated any horses yet on the new machine, but the building has been designed to allow us to bring horses into the treatment room.”

The new machine — called a linear accelerator — is identical to those used in human cancer treatment centres.

Dr Dobson said: “The tumours we have treated previously were solitary lymphomas, sarcoids and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin — radiotherapy is not very effective at treating large, slowly growing tumours.”

Radiotherapy usually takes the form of a course of three or four treatments over a period of three to four weeks.

Although treatment itself takes only about five minutes, the patients have to be anaesthetised and manoeuvred into the right position — which can take time.

The University of Cambridge is still raising money to help pay for the installation of the new cancer therapy unit. In total, the project cost £1.5million.

For more information, visit www.cam.ac.uk