Zoobiquity In Action

Peanut’s Story

When you work in a veterinary clinical pathology laboratory, you never quite know what might turn up as your next case. Two years ago, our colleagues at Miami’s Jungle Island inquired whether we might take a second look at some slides from one of their orangutans. We enlisted the help of one of faculty members in human hematopathology, Dr. Francis Ikpatt. He reviewed the sections prepared from intestinal tissue taken from Peanut during a recent emergency surgery for a possible intestinal blockage. Although all hoped for a report of normal tissue, the diagnosis was lymphoma.

Lymphoma has been described in great apes but usually in animals that are 30-40 years of age. Of course, the next question was what can we do? Our colleagues in the Department of Pathology pulled out all the tricks normally reserved for human tissue including immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization to further type the cancer as diffuse large B cell lymphoma. With good research and clinical connections to the university’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, we called upon our colleague and Chief of Hematology/Oncology, Dr. Joseph Rosenblatt who is internationally recognized for his expertise in human oncology. Given the similarity of the orangutan to the human and with much consideration by all, Dr. Rosenblatt designed a treatment regimen very similar to that used in human lymphoma patients called R-CHOP, a combination immuno- and chemotherapy.

Peanut underwent 3 cycles of this therapy at monthly intervals. She remains clinically normal now more than 20 months after the last treatment delighting park visitors with her uncanny “human” abilities including painting. Young age, good health, immediate surgical intervention, and catching this at an early stage are likely all favorable to the continued health of Peanut. This case has been an excellent example of zoobiquity— where the commonalities between animals and humans can be used to diagnose and treat disease.

Look for more on Peanut’s diagnosis and treatment in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 45(4):935-940, 2014. Many thanks to the University of Miami team including Drs. Rosenblatt and Fonte and their staff and Drs. Ikpatt and Fan of the Department of Pathology, Knowles Animal Clinic, Miami Veterinary Specialists, and Dr. Drury Reavill of Zoo/Exotic Pathology Services. We are grateful to Drs. Bern Levine, Susan Clubb, and Jason Chatfield of Jungle Island for the opportunity to assist in this case. Much credit also to the husbandry and the orangutan enrichment teams for Peanut’s excellent care.