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Use of a canine melanoma vaccine in the management of malignant melanoma in an African penguin (Spheniscus demersus)

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  • 1 Mystic Aquarium, a division of Sea Research Foundation Inc, Mystic, CT
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA
  • | 3 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN

Abstract

CASE DESCRIPTION

A 25-year-old 4.4-kg male aquarium-hatched African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) was evaluated because of a raised 1.5 × 0.5-cm pigmented mass extending from within the right naris noted 2 days earlier.

CLINICAL FINDINGS

The penguin had a raised pigmented mass extending out from the right naris and onto the upper beak. Histologic examination of excisional biopsy specimens confirmed a diagnosis of malignant melanoma. A treatment plan including administration of meloxicam, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy was initiated.

TREATMENT AND OUTCOME

Treatment with meloxicam (0.2 mg/kg, PO, q 24 h) was initiated and continued for a total of 45 weeks; however, the medication was discontinued for a period of 6 weeks because of the risk of toxic effects in the chick that the penguin was feeding at that time. The penguin underwent local hypofractionated radiation therapy and received 4 once weekly 8-Gy fractions of radiation (total radiation dose, 32 Gy). The penguin was administered a canine melanoma vaccine transdermally every other week for 4 doses, with a booster injection given 7 months after the first dose. Treatment with the vaccine appeared to have no adverse effects. The penguin’s pre- and postvaccination tyrosinase-specific antibody titers were measured with an anti–human tyrosinase-specific ELISA, and a 3-fold titer increase indicated a positive humoral immune response to the canine melanoma vaccination. The penguin died of unrelated causes 54 weeks after initial diagnosis, and there was no evidence of metastasis on necropsy.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

These case findings suggested that vaccination with a canine melanoma vaccine may be a safe and useful adjunct treatment for management of malignant melanoma in penguins.

Abstract

CASE DESCRIPTION

A 25-year-old 4.4-kg male aquarium-hatched African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) was evaluated because of a raised 1.5 × 0.5-cm pigmented mass extending from within the right naris noted 2 days earlier.

CLINICAL FINDINGS

The penguin had a raised pigmented mass extending out from the right naris and onto the upper beak. Histologic examination of excisional biopsy specimens confirmed a diagnosis of malignant melanoma. A treatment plan including administration of meloxicam, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy was initiated.

TREATMENT AND OUTCOME

Treatment with meloxicam (0.2 mg/kg, PO, q 24 h) was initiated and continued for a total of 45 weeks; however, the medication was discontinued for a period of 6 weeks because of the risk of toxic effects in the chick that the penguin was feeding at that time. The penguin underwent local hypofractionated radiation therapy and received 4 once weekly 8-Gy fractions of radiation (total radiation dose, 32 Gy). The penguin was administered a canine melanoma vaccine transdermally every other week for 4 doses, with a booster injection given 7 months after the first dose. Treatment with the vaccine appeared to have no adverse effects. The penguin’s pre- and postvaccination tyrosinase-specific antibody titers were measured with an anti–human tyrosinase-specific ELISA, and a 3-fold titer increase indicated a positive humoral immune response to the canine melanoma vaccination. The penguin died of unrelated causes 54 weeks after initial diagnosis, and there was no evidence of metastasis on necropsy.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

These case findings suggested that vaccination with a canine melanoma vaccine may be a safe and useful adjunct treatment for management of malignant melanoma in penguins.

Contributor Notes

Corresponding author: Dr. Flower (jflower@mysticaquarium.org)