Nemo, a 331kg Hampshire pig, has made history as the first
known pig to undergo lymphoma treatment. REUTERS/Cornell
When George Goldner went to feed his six pet pigs earlier
this year, his 331kg companion Nemo was acting strangely. Nemo
had suddenly stopped eating and laid in the mud.
So Goldner loaded Nemo into a trailer and drove more than two
hours to Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA) in
Ithaca, New York. There he learned his four-year-old
Hampshire pig had what doctors believed was the blood cancer
The hospital's researchers told Goldner they had never seen a
pig treated for cancer. But that did not deter Goldner, a
self-described animal lover, who asked doctors to devise a
way to treat his pig based on their knowledge of cancer in
dogs and humans and not worry about costs.
Now, four months after Goldner first rushed to the hospital,
Nemo has made history as the first known pig to undergo
lymphoma treatment - and successfully - leaving researchers
with hope for advancements in treating cancer in large
"Before when large animals were diagnosed with cancer, it was
pretty much impossible to treat them," said Emily Barrell, a
resident who picked all of Nemo's chemotherapy drugs and
delivered them. "Now we have a model to base it on."
Because pigs have necks bigger than many humans, their veins
are difficult to access, Barrell said, making it impossible
to deliver many of the aggressive drugs needed for
Doctors at CUHA consulted with researchers in other fields
before implanting a vascular access port, which is a small
metal port with a silicone cover, directly under Nemo's skin
behind his ear.
The port contained a catheter that ran through a jugular vein
in his neck, allowing Nemo to receive the sort of cancer
treatment administered to dogs and humans.
Nemo is now believed to be in remission, Barrell said, and
will return home in September if everything goes according to
Goldner and doctors at CUHA declined to specify how much
Nemo's treatment cost. The cost of chemotherapy for an
average-sized golden retriever is $4,000-$5,000 from start to
finish, Barrell said, and Nemo is seven or eight times the
size of that.
"There were two choices: One was to let him die and the other
was to give it a shot," Goldner said in an interview. "Now I
think (Nemo) is definitely bound to provide some help."
Though some may criticize the cost of treating such large
animals, Barrell said it has become common practice for cat
and dog owners to pay for cancer treatment, and it is up to
owners to decide how much they are willing to pay.
"This is exactly the type of clinical veterinary research we
should be doing to treat disease in other animals," said
Justin Goodman, director of laboratory investigation at
animal rights group PETA.
Nemo's appetite is back and he's treated like a "big star" at
CUHA, Goldner said.
"(Nemo) is a really special story about people being
innovative and owners being dedicated," Barrell said.