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LSU's Mike VI diagnosed with cancer

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BATON ROUGE - LSU’s live tiger mascot, Mike VI, has been diagnosed with a type of cancer, according to university veterinarians.

While Mike’s attitude and demeanor haven’t change, the official diagnosis from doctors is a spindle cell sarcoma. Veterinarians say Mike isn’t in any pain due to the cancer.

Mike’s veterinarian, Dr. David Baker, and his veterinary student caretakers said they noticed swelling on the right side of Mike’s face recently. Last Thursday, Mike was sedated in his night house so he could be brought to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine for a physical exam and further diagnostic tests.

At the vet school, Mike was put under general anesthesia and given a CT scan to determine the cause of the swelling. Multiple specialists at LSU and other institutions reviewed the results and determined that it was a tumor near the big cat’s nose.

Biopsy analysis led the veterinarians to diagnose the cancer as spindle cell sarcoma, an extremely rare for a cancer but a type that is unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. Spindle cell sarcoma is a malignant tumor derived from fibrous connective tissues of the bone.

Mike VI will now receive a highly sophisticated form of radiation therapy known as “stereotactic radiotherapy” or SRT. SRT delivers radiation to the tumor in a highly focused manner, sparing surrounding, normal tissues in order to reduce complications.

Veterinarians say the treatment isn’t a cure, but it should be able to extend Mike’s life and allow him to live comfortably for some time. As for timeframes, it’s estimated that Mike VI could live another one to two months or perhaps one to two years at the most.

Mike’s SRT will be performed at Mary Bird Perkins - Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center in Baton Rouge in conjunction with the tiger’s existing veterinary team.

Mary Bird Perkins was selected to provide the radiation therapy due to its longstanding relationship with the LSU Vet School. For years, the cancer center’s medical physicists have provided consultation and approval for animals receiving radiation treatment at the university. The latest technology will be available to the team treating Mike, which will be performed outside of normal business hours.

Mike VI is one of only two live tiger mascots in the country. He is 10 years of age. The 420-pound tiger was two years old when he arrived at LSU and lives in a 15,000-square-foot habitat next door to Tiger Stadium. He only appeared in the stadium during one game last season.

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