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Rhino responds well to cancer treatment

November 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Cancer doctors teamed up with the Los Angeles Zoo to offer new hope to a 4,000-pound patient. She may be a show stopper and a head turner but Randa, the 40-year-old Indian greater one-horned rhino is also a tongue twister, because Randa the rhino is really rare.

"There are probably a 110 to 130 worldwide in captivity," said Dr. Leah Greer, the senior veterinarian of the L.A. Zoo.

What makes Rhonda rarer is the lack of a horn. It got infected three years ago, so doctors removed it and while this may be L.A., no, that isn't called a Rhino-plasty.

But the vets found more than an infection. Randa had cancer.

"That was not healing, because there was squamous cell carcinoma inside. In a squamous cell carcinoma, radiation is the appropriate tool," said Greer.

But here is a rhino-sized problem. How do you get a 4,000-pound animal to a cancer treatment facility?

The answer is, you don't. You bring that cancer treatment facility to the zoo.

A team of cancer experts from Xoft Incorporated brought their new, portable, low-level radiation equipment right to Randa.

"We immobilized her. She laid perfectly still and they brought the equipment, and they did a radiation treatment, and we then repeated it a week later," said Greer.

That was three months ago. Monday, the zoo says Randa is responding well to the treatments, which is amazing, they say, considering that most rhinos die in their 30s.

"She feels great. She runs around, she thinks she is going to live until 50. So we are right behind her," said Greer.

Which is where you want to be with a rhino, even with one that doesn't have a horn.


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