Last month saw the beginning of an exciting new collaborative project between the Donkey Sanctuary and the University of Glasgow. Sarcoids are the most common skin tumours to affect horses, donkeys, mules, ponies and even zebras worldwide. Although sarcoids are a type of cancer, they do not spread to other organs. Having said that, sarcoids can still be very unpleasant and it is not unheard of for an animal to be put to sleep due to the presence of such lesions. There are six different types of sarcoid: occult, verrucous (warty), nodular, fibroblastic , mixed and malevolent (and they can be as gruesome as they sound). It can be difficult to identify sarcoid type early on in their development, and equally to choose the right course of treatment for that type. Additionally, sarcoids can recur after surgery, some can be non-responsive to treatment, some can worsen with trauma to the site, and some can seem to change from one type to another or have aspects of different types – all of which can make effective management very difficult.
The direction this project will take is to utilise previous research including case records, epidemiological knowledge, monitoring and modelling systems to define the key risk factors associated with the development and spread of sarcoids.
Professor Lubna Nasir joins us on this project from the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine where she is a Professor of Comparative Oncology.
The project is entirely non-invasive and all clinical material gathered will be collected during the course of normal treatment. Excised lesions will be sent to the Centre for Genomic Research at Liverpool University for RNA sequencing to identify sarcoid-specific genes.
All areas of this project have been approved by both The Donkey Sanctuary and University of Glasgow’s Ethics Committees.
We are hoping to gain a further understanding of how sarcoids develop, how best to manage cases as they develop - including a ‘personalised’ approach to sarcoid care, and additionally identifying new and improved treatment options. The success of this project has the potential to reduce pain, suffering and even loss of life on the donkeys’ part, and diminish the stress suffered by both donkey, owner and all others involved in looking after these unpredictable cases.