May 23, 2016
Written by LSU University Relations
BATON ROUGE – LSU’s live tiger mascot, Mike VI, has been diagnosed with a spindle cell sarcoma, a type of cancer. Currently, Mike’s attitude and demeanor are unchanged, and he does not appear to be in pain.
Mike’s veterinarian, David Baker, DVM, Ph.D., and his veterinary student caretakers previously noticed swelling on the right side of Mike’s face. On Thursday, May 12, Mike was sedated in his night house and then brought to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine for a physical examination and diagnostic tests.
Once at the LSU SVM, Mike was put under general anesthesia and given a CT (computed tomography) scan to determine the cause of the swelling. All diagnostic findings were reviewed by multiple specialists, both at LSU and at other institutions, and it was determined that Mike has a tumor in his face near his nose. Biopsy analysis led to a diagnosis of spindle cell sarcoma, which is a malignant tumor derived from fibrous connective tissues of the bone. This is an extremely rare form of cancer, but this type of cancer is unlikely to spread to other areas of the body.
The team on Mike’s case at the LSU SVM was composed of Dr. Baker, Mike’s veterinary student caretakers, and veterinarians and veterinary technicians in the anesthesia, dermatology, laboratory animal medicine, ophthalmology, oncology, surgery, diagnostic imaging and anatomic and clinical pathology services, as well as local veterinarian Alfred Stevens, DVM (LSU SVM 1979) and veterinarian for BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo Gordon Pirie, DVM.
Dr. Baker consulted with specialists at LSU and around the country to put together Mike’s treatment plan, which consists of a new and highly sophisticated form of radiation therapy called “Stereotactic radiotherapy,” or SRT. SRT delivers radiation to the tumor in a highly focused manner, sparing surrounding, normal tissues so complications are reduced. Treatment may be given as a single, high dose or as fractionated doses given daily for up to three days. This treatment is not curative but should extend Mike’s life and allow him to live comfortably for some time. SRT will be performed by experts at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center here in Baton Rouge, in conjunction with Mike’s veterinary team.
Eventually, the radiation-resistant cells remaining in the tumor will resume growth. As for timeframes, it is estimated that without treatment Mike VI could live 1-2 months; with treatment, perhaps 1-2 years.
The Cancer Center was selected to provide radiation therapy due to its longstanding relationship with the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. For years, the Cancer Center’s medical physicists have provided consultation and approval for animals receiving radiation treatment at LSU. Additionally, the Cancer Center offers the advanced technology and facilities necessary for Mike’s SRT treatments, which will occur outside of normal business hours.
Mary Bird Perkins and LSU have collaborated for years through its nationally recognized academic and research partnership. This collaboration offers a level of scientific ingenuity to radiation therapy that enhances patient care and has impacted cancer treatment around the globe. The Mary Bird Perkins – LSU Medical Physics Graduate Program, the only one in Louisiana, is nationally competitive as one of only 40 such programs in North America accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Medical Physics Educational Programs.