NAPLES, Fla. - A medical first is putting a local animal rescue on the map. One of the wolves at the Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Naples is healthy and happy thanks a unique cancer treatment.
Wink News stepped into the wolf's den and spoke to the doctors who say the surgery saved the wolf's life.
Eight year old Chocowa, is a cancer survivor. The middle-aged wolf is walking around his habitat at the Shy Wolf Sanctuary, just three months after undergoing an experimental treatment for a malignant mass in his leg.
"Because of the unique challenges of doing this with a wolf, we had to come up with some kind of treatment plan that was going to be simpler," said Dr. Randy Eisel with Animal Life Veterinary Center.
Dr. Eisel performed two surgeries on the wolf but says the cancer kept coming back.
"The only way to remove remove the entire tumor at surgery would have been an amputation," he said.
That's when Dr. Eisel looked for an alternative method.
"For an animal like Chocowa, although he is friendly-ish, is not a pet. Every time he is moved he has to be anesthetized. It wouldn't be fair to him. It could be dangerous to his health and dangerous to the staff," he said.
Dr. Eisel contacted veterinary oncologist Dr. Lisa DiBernardi. Together they came up with a plan to save Chocowa's limb by depositing a dozen tiny chemotherapy platinum-filled beads under the skin on his front leg. The drug slowly delivers treatment without repeated anesthesia, injections or surgeries.
"We placed the beads about 2 centimeters apart, surrounding the area we believed the tissue was left behind and he's been doing well ever since.
Dr. DiBernardi says this is the first time platinum bead therapy has been performed on a wolf and hopes their success will help to benefit others battling the disease.
"We are thrilled. There's a lot of cancer research that goes on with dogs and and cats that can be transferred to humans and vica versa," she said.
Shy Wolf is a non-profit organization. The sanctuary is home to more than 50 animals including wolves and Florida panthers. 100% of their care is provided by volunteers and donations.