Beauty is really skin deep – a sarcoid success story
An exciting breakthrough at the University of Minnesota’s Equine Center could lead to an effective treatment for a frustrating and occasionally devastating skin disease commonly found in horses. This condition, equine sarcoid, is a type of skin tumor thought to be caused by exposure to a bovine papilloma virus. These tumors grow and spread when irritated, and are of great frustration to owners because there is no consistently effective treatment. The tumors have tendrils, which can invade throughout adjacent muscle tissue, making complete surgical removal of sarcoids difficult. The tumors are not malignant (meaning that they do not spread through blood or lymph to additional sites) but can be very difficult to control. Not only can sarcoids be quite ghastly in appearance, but also they can affect a horse’s comfort. The research was prompted by the condition of a particular patient at the University’s Equine Clinic named J.R.
“We tried everything, but even the best treatments weren’t totally successful, and the sarcoids just kept on coming,” says Equine Clinical Services’ client Joan Lucas about her horse, J.R. “Any physical trauma caused more sarcoids to appear and he was suffering a great deal.” J.R. was treated with the very latest in sarcoid therapies at the Equine Clinic, specifically sophisticated techniques that employed chemotherapy, cryotherapy, skin grafts, and laser surgery. The treatments were exacting a physical toll on J.R. It was taking longer and longer for him to bounce back physically from the laser treatments. “We concentrated on controlling growth,” said Dr. Erin Malone, a surgeon at the Equine Center. “This condition is so difficult to treat effectively, and it causes an incredible amount of frustration for horse owners everywhere.”
That is, until now. Drs. Nogueira, Torres, and Malone of the College of Veterinary Medicine have recently completed a study that evaluates the effectiveness of Aldara™ (imiquimod) for the treatment of equine sarcoids. The early results are extraordinary. Aldara™, a topical cream used to treat certain human papillomavirus infections and skin tumors, reduced and even eliminated equine sarcoids in this study.
The key to unlocking the sarcoid puzzle is the collaborative culture within the College of Veterinary Medicine. “We have a wonderful group of experts here at the University that really contributed to the success of this study,” according to Dr. Nogueira, a dermatology resident at the College of Veterinary Medicine, “We had the right combination of veterinary and dermatological expertise on campus, not to mention a very involved and informed owner.” J.R.’s owner is a pharmacist who knew of Aldara’s™ human application, and thought it just might work for J.R. The team treating J.R. contacted 3M Company, the manufacturer of Aldara™, to see if they would be interested in providing the drug for a pilot study.
The study, led by College of Veterinary Medicine veterinarians and animal dermatologists, was conducted on client-owned horses (including J.R.) with amazing results. Of the 13 horses completing the study, 11 showed significant improvement, and seven had complete elimination of the sarcoids. The treatment was usually 16 weeks for these horses. Even more exciting are the long-term results. After 18 months, none of the horses that have been in constant treatment has had a recurrence of sarcoids.
The outlook for using this drug to treat sarcoids is bright, with real benefit to horses suffering from this condition. A topical drug, Aldara™ can be applied easily and safely by owners, eliminating hospital visits. Aldara™ may also be the key to treating other ailments affecting horses, including aural (ear) plaques and eye squamous cell carcinoma. To learn more about the sarcoid study, please visit http://www.cvm.umn.edu/cic/completedstudies/lamedsurg/home.html. You will find study results and advice for your veterinarian.
After four months of treatment, J.R.’s tumors receded enough that he could once again enter the show ring, and win. Now, almost two years later, J.R. is still sarcoid-free and feeling better than ever. Joan is ecstatic. J.R. is happy too. He is currently working as a therapy horse, visiting the elderly at nursing homes with Joan.
|Neck Sarcoid Before Aldara
||Neck Sarcoid After Aldara