Case Report

Successful treatment of early cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma with hypofractionated radiation therapy in an African lion (Panthera leo)

Louise van der Weyden, Nicolize O'Dell, Alida Avenant, Paolo Pazzi, Katja N. Koeppel
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 92 | a2134 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v92i0.2134 | © 2021 Louise van der Weyden, Nicolize O'Dell, Alida Avenant, Paolo Pazzi, Katja Natalie Koeppel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 December 2020 | Published: 24 June 2021

About the author(s)

Louise van der Weyden, Wellcome Genome Institute, Wellcome Sanger Campus, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Nicolize O'Dell, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa; and, Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa
Alida Avenant, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa
Paolo Pazzi, Department of Companion Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa
Katja N. Koeppel, Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa; and, Production Animal Science, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort, South Africa


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Abstract

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a slow growing but locally invasive neoplasm, most commonly caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Whilst SCC accounts for 15% of skin tumours in domesticated cats, cutaneous SCC in non-domesticated felids (apart from captive snow leopards) appears to be uncommon, with only three reports in the literature to date. In this report, a captive African lion (Panthera leo) presented with two ulcerative lesions on the nasal planum. Histopathology of the lesions revealed epidermal keratinocyte dysplasia and neoplastic basal- and supra-basal epithelial cells with dyskeratosis and evidence of basement membrane breaching and dermal invasion, consistent with a diagnosis of SCC. There was also evidence of laminar fibrosis and inflammation of the subjacent dermis suggesting that the SCC most likely resulted from UV-induced neoplastic transformation of the epidermal squamous epithelium following actinic keratosis. The lion was treated with hypofractionated radiation therapy and remained in remission until his death (euthanised 17 months later because of age-related chronic renal failure). This is the first report of cutaneous SCC in a lion with evidence of actinic damage and resolution after radiation therapy.

Keywords

lion; skin; cancer; radiation therapy; actinic damage; laminar fibrosis; UV

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