Veterinarians Test New Hoof Cancer Treatment

After surgically debulking the tumor, veterinarians administered electrochemotherapy directly into the cancer site.

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Veterinarians Test New Hoof Cancer Treatment
With each treatment, the mare appeared to feel better. A year later, she had marked improvement in both gait and emotional status, with no sign of a recurring tumor. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Enrico Spugnini
At first, the veterinarians treated Drami’s hoof lesions as canker—a chronic frog infection. But Drami’s tumors recurred aggressively after each surgical treatment. Referral and subsequent evaluations led to a surprising diagnosis: cancer.

Hoof cancer is rare, but it certainly does occur. In Drami’s case, it was a 5-by-6 cm mass of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) protruding from the front of a hind hoof, which was constantly bleeding. The 20-year-old mare was lame and depressed, her treating veterinarians said. But after two surgeries and electrochemotherapy, she is now in full remission.

“It’s been challenging, but it’s always such a great emotional feeling and reward to defeat such a terrible disease,” said Enrico Spugnini, DVM, PhD, equine oncologist at Biopulse, in Naples, and Equivet Roma Hospital, in Rome, Italy.

“In terms of welfare, it has been well worth the treatment the mare went through,” he said. “And since there’s such a severe lack of information on cancers in horses, we may also have potentially opened a new field of medical procedures in equine veterinary medicine through this experience

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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