Potter Park Zoo's Alaskan Moose Receives New, Innovative and Effective Chemotherapy Treatment

A new, innovative, and effective cancer treatment is helping save the life of Potter Park Zoo’s five-year-old Alaskan moose, Meeko. During an examination to trim hooves, Meeko was found to have a mass on the back of his leg. After the mass was surgically removed and submitted for evaluation, it was found to be a type of cancer called a soft tissue sarcoma. Unfortunately, due to close proximity to the joint, complete surgical removal of the cancer was not possible. Therefore, additional treatment to eliminate any residual cancer tissue was needed. Dr. Ronan Eustace, Potter Park Zoo’s Director of Animal Health, contacted veterinary specialists’ large animal surgeon, Dr. Ann Rashmir, and veterinary oncologist, Dr. Paulo Vilar Saavedra, both from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (MSU-CVM) to inquire about electrochemotherapy.

“Initially the electrochemotherapy machine at MSU-CVM was undergoing repair; so, Dr. Rashmir worked with staff at RXVET BIOTECH to personally drive a loaner machine to Potter Park Zoo. The Zoo is really indebted to Dr. Rashmir and RXVET BIOTECH for going above and beyond to help Meeko,” says Dr. Eustace.

The electrochemotherapy treatment involves the use of small doses of intralesional chemotherapy followed by electric pulses applied to the tumor. In contrast to traditional chemotherapy, where doses of chemotherapy drugs are administered systemically and can have effects on non-cancer tissues, electrochemotherapy works by directly injecting chemotherapy drugs into the tumor. Then the electrochemotherapy unit gives electric pulses, which causes the pores of the cancer cells to open and allows for higher doses of chemotherapy to be absorbed into the cancer cells resulting in a more efficient response to therapy.

So far, Meeko is doing well and staff are hopeful he has beaten this cancer. However, very little information is known about how soft tissue sarcomas behave in moose. After the procedure, he developed a local infection in the area that resolved after multiple antibacterial treatments. Meeko appears to be almost fully recovered and zoo staff expects he will be on exhibit in the next few weeks.

Potter Park Zoo thanks MSU-CVM specialists and RXVET BIOTECH for donating their time and equipment, allowing the zoo’s animal care team to provide exceptional care for Meeko during this time.

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