Pony Gets Treated for Rare Blood Cancer Using Medicine for Humans

While chronic lymphocytic leukemia is common in humans, it is extremely rare in horses.

This little pony went to... the oncologist?

When Bob, a pony living at a Pennsylvania farm for the last 16 years, was discovered to have cancer, the veterinary team turned to a special oncology team that specializes in bridging the gap between human and animal medicine to come up with a course of treatment.

"If this works well for Bob, it can provide us at least some amount of evidence that maybe this is something worth looking into for horses in the future," Dr. Laura Dunbar of the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center said.

Experts said Bob was having some unexplained breathing problems that started last summer.

He was soon diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a form of blood cancer.

Because a team of veterinarians were unsuccessful with their first round of treatment, they turned to human medicine through the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Hematologist Dr. John Byrd explained that while the blood cancer was rare in horses, it was common in humans and the average course of treatment involved taking Ibrutinib orally, each day.

“Particularly with older patients with this disease, they take the pill once a day," Byrd said. "The disease goes away, and they can expect, in many cases, to live as long as they would without CLL."

Bob has just began treatment, and while doctors said the lovable pony seems to be in pretty good health already, they expect the pill will ward off future symptoms of his blood cancer, prolonging his life and improving his quality of life.

“Right now, he’s doing quite well,” Dunbar said. “And we just want to keep it that way.”


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