A 19-year-old polar bear in Tacoma is believed to be the first in the United States to get chemotherapy for liver cancer.
Glacier, 19, was moving around and doing some training after a first dose for advanced liver cancer, according to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
The cancer spread to his lungs and abdominal lymph nodes, according to a CT scan Friday.
Veterinarians and oncology specialists decided surgery wasn’t an option. Glacier got the intravenous chemotherapy just after experts saw the results of the scan, and he’ll get another dose in a few weeks. The first IV was donated, and the zoo will order an oral drug specialists recommended, but the price isn’t clear, yet.
He’s getting pain killers, antibiotics and other medicine too. The zoo diagnosed him with the tumor and heart disease in February.
“Glacier is not a young bear, but he is also not considered geriatric,” head veterinarian Karen Wolf said. “We anticipate the chemotherapy treatments will make him feel better and may slow progression of the cancer. Glacier continues to exhibit many of his normal habits, is still interested in food and is choosing to interact with the trainers. We are monitoring him daily.”
Animals respond differently to the treatment than humans. It’s been used in dogs, but the zoo thinks Glacier may be the first polar bear patient in the country to get chemotherapy for liver cancer. Wolf looked for information on other polar bears treated and didn’t find any in her search. A colleague in Europe hasn’t yet returned her inquiry about whether any polar bears have been treated with chemotherapy abroad.
Staff members hope the treatment will make Glacier feel better and live longer, but it’s not clear how successful it will be, the zoo warned.
He had no negative effects from his first chemo dose, the zoo said.
Glacier came to Tacoma with 19-year-old Blizzard in 1997, after the two were found orphaned. Boris, 29, is the zoo’s other polar bear.