Sarcoids and Other Skin Tumors Discussed by Vets

A variety of sarcoid and skin tumor treatments and management topics were discussed by veterinarians during a Table Topic at the 2009 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention. All veterinarians in the room had treated skin tumors and were willing to discuss their successes and failures.

Since sarcoids are the most common skin tumor in the horse, their treatment was the focus. Everyone seemed to use surgical excision as part of their treatment plan, but the tumors that did not respond to surgery alone or were inoperable were the most difficult to manage. Particularly difficult areas to treat seemed to be around the eyes and ears.

The most favorable adjunctive treatment seemed to be intralesional chemotherapy, using either cisplatin beads or injections of cisplatin, carboplatin, or 5 fluorouracil. For veterinarians with access to a laser, the laser was used to treat specific tumors. Cryosurgery seemed to be very useful in the hands of practitioners who used it often.

Many topical treatments had been tried with varying success. Some veterinarians had excellent success with XXTerra, an herbal compound of heavy metals, while others found that it caused sarcoids to become very aggressive.

A chemotherapeutic cream, 5 fluorouracil was also found to be effective for controlling tumors, but it can be very irritating.

Aldara, a human genital wart and basal cell carcinoma medication, had also been tried by some veterinarians. Since it is only sold in small packets, it was very expensive and locally irritating with limited clinical success.

A few veterinarians had tried removing a portion of the sarcoid, freezing it in small pieces, and implanting the pieces under the horse's mane to act as an immune stimulant. There was varied success with this treatment, and repeated implantations might be needed for problem sarcoids to achieve control.

For squamous cell carcinomas, many people felt that if the tumors were treated early, success could be achieved. Many of the medium- to large-sized tumors that are referred to hospitals are very difficult to control due to their advanced nature and repeatedly return despite aggressive treatment.

Melanomas in gray horses were also discussed. Most vets surgically removed the tumors if they were in a problematic location. Some had used the melanoma vaccine and found it useful. Malignant melanomas were deemed very difficult to treat and often resulted in the loss of the horse. Nobody had found an effective treatment for the malignant tumors.

This Table Topic wrap-up was submitted by Daniel J. Burba, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, a professor of equine surgery at Louisiana State University, and Christina A. Hewes, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, a clinical instructor in equine surgery at Auburn University.

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