FELINE LYMPHOSARCOMA

By Lynn Miller (Appeared in the "Cat Fanciers' Journal Summer 1998 Issue)
Updates December, 2002 in italics.

Lymphosarcoma, sometimes called lymphoma, is a malignant tumor (or tumors) derived from lymphoid tissue (lymph nodes, tonsils, thymus, spleen, etc.). It is an illness that affects humans as well as cats, dogs, and other mammals. Lymphosarcomas are probably the common tumors of cats.

Although often caused by the leukemia virus, the cases we have experienced have occurred in FeLV negative Oriental Shorthairs, which have been strictly indoors in FeLV negative catteries. Since these cats are related we suspect a genetically inherited cause instead of viral.

Some of the lymphoma cats were diagnosed too late for treatment to be effective so we feel it's important to share our discussions about the symptoms to alert other cat owners and breeders. We have found that by talking about it openly, sharing experiences and pedigrees, we have been able to let go of the pain and continue as cat fanciers.

After our first cat died, I phoned all over the country. I was amazed at how many people would not talk about it. People would tell me about their experiences, but promised to deny the conversation in the future. Some, unfortunately, were all too willing to blame other cats many generations past.

I also went through a long period of denial during this time, which is very common when faced with a disease like this. Even after we lost three cats, I still couldnít accept that our cases could be genetic. I kept searching for other possibilities. Was it environmental? Water, radon, power lines, or just random bad luck? Were humans affected? It just couldnít be genetic!

I was frightened. I did not want to hear of any new cases and dreaded answering the phone. I was even afraid to sell kittens. Once we got over the denial, we decided to be proactive. We researched and altered those we believed might be passing it on. Some of our friends thought that we were overreacting. After all, some of the cats had produced beautiful babies and the books said it was viral.

We were also very fortunate to find Dr. Fred. He recognized the symptoms and knew how to treat the disease. Seeing several cats die because they were not treated in time has taught me why it is advisable to start therapy immediately. Itís also important to note that onset of the tumors is rapid, so it is important to get the cat to the vet as soon as possible once symptoms begin.

Lymphosarcomas have been found in Golden Retrievers for years. Rarely do we visit Dr. Fred without seeing one in the waiting room. Lymphoma is also been seen in Boxers, Basset Hounds, and St Bernard's. Lymphosarcoma has also been well-documented in cats. However, until recently, it was thought that all lymphomas were only in FeLV positive cats. This is not true as we, unfortunately, found out. Many veterinarians also believe that lymphoma means death and will advise euthanasia. Many cat owners believe that their cats will be sick from the chemo. Neither of these is true either.

Treatment of Lymphosarcoma in Felines

Most combinations include Vincristine, Cytoxan, and Prednisone (COP protocol). One combination used with success is Vincristine Cytoxan, Methotrexate. Some have added Prednisone and/or L-asparaginase (Elspar)

Dr Fredís chemotherapy protocol includes Prednisone, Elspar, Vincristine, and Cytoxan. Idarubicin both parenteral and oral routes of administration are possible. Side effects include gastrointestinal toxicity, leukopenia, and anorexia. This drug has limited availability, but seems to have good results in feline lymphoma. Most oncologists agree that total chemotherapy lasts two years.

Case Histories

To help others understand lymphosarcoma that appears to be genetically caused, Iíve included several case histories below. You will see that it is a disease of the young presenting very subtle symptoms.

Algebra's Simon
Born
5/6/96
Ebony Oriental Shorthair Male
Sire: SGC Mitsumews Chip N'Dale of Algebra
Dam: CH Algebra's Pocahontas

9/25/96: symptoms: regurgitating and only eating small amounts
9/26/96: Wheezing after regurgitating. Diagnosed with pharingitis at local vet. Treated with Clavamox.
9/27/96: Still regurgitating. Return to vet where chest x-ray revealed a mass in the right lower thorax. Referred to referral clinic that refused to speak to me and would not schedule appointment until referral vet called her.
9/29/96: Anorexia, wheezing, dyspnea, and acting depressed. Taken to University of Pennsylvania. After many hours and tests, he was diagnosed with a mediastinal mass, pleural effusion, and intussusception. Vet told us that he would not tolerate chemo or surgery. Euthanasia elected as only treatment. Necropsy revealed lymphosarcoma involving mediastinum, lymph nodes, liver, bone marrow, and colon.

Algebra's Pantera of Teshari (Simon's brother aka Alvin)
Born
5/6/96
Ebony Oriental Shorthair Male
Sire: SGC Mitsumews Chip N'Dale of Algebra
Dam: CH Algebra's Pocahontas

10/96: Owner noted regurgitation, coughing, and dyspnea. Chest X-ray revealed mediastinal mass. Euthanasia. No necropsy report.

SGC Mitsumews Chip N Dale of Algebra
Born:
2/9/95
Seal Point Oriental Shorthair
Sire: GC RW Mitsumews Diablo
Dam: Leggs Kiss Me Kate of Mitsumews

Chip had a show career, was neutered and living in Princeton with a family, two cats, and two dogs. They noted that he was not acting right, not eating right, and not playing right. New toys, new foods, AD, Nutrical, etc. tried
11/8/96: admitted to local veterinary hospital for fluid replacement due to dehydration. 11/11/96: a different vet realized that Chip was having dyspnea and did a chest x-ray. A mediastinal mass was revealed and euthanasia was recommended. Blood and organs sent to Leslie Lyons.

GP Algebra's Calypso of Y-NOT
Born:
11/16/95
Sire: SGC Mitsumews Chip N Dale of Algebra
Dam: GC, GP Algebra's X Marks the Spot, DM
Ebony Oriental Shorthair Female

1/16/97: coughing, breathing heavily but not rapidly. Chest x-ray revealed a mediastinal mass that was so large the heart could not be seen on x-ray.
1/17/97: Vincristine, Cytoxan, Methotrexate with Prednisone started. Calypso tolerated chemo well and it was stopped 3/98.
10/98: she continues to do well.

CH Algebra's Esmerelda
Seal Lynx Point Oriental Shorthair
Born 6/1/96
Sire: SGC Mitsumews Chip N Dale of Algebra
Dam: GC, GP Algebra's X Marks the Spot, DM

3/8/97 Coughing and some dyspnea noted. Chest X-ray by regular local vet revealed a mass. In view of past, we wanted chemo started immediately. Elspar (aspariginase) was administered at U of Penn that night.
3/10/97 Prednisone started 3/14/97 seen by Dr. Fred. Vincristine and Cytoxan given
4/7/97 Radiograph reveals no tumor!
Esmerelda received chemotherapy as per Dr. Fred's protocol. She did well. At the end of March, 1998, she contracted a virulent strain of upper respiratory infection and did not recover. She died on
4/9/98. Necropsy revealed necrotizing pharyngitis and necrotizing bronchopneumonia of unknown etiology. There was no evidence of lymphosarcoma.

GC Algebra's QT Pi
Blue Lynx Point Oriental Shorthair
Sire: SGC Mitsumews Chip N Dale of Algebra
Dam: GC, GP Algebra's X Marks the Spot, DM
Born
6/1/96 (Esmerelda's litter sister)

4/22/97: dyspnea noted
4/23/97: Chest x-ray revealed mediastinal mass. Elspar, Vincristine, Prednisone started.
8/98: Has done very well with chemo protocol. She has been seeing Dr. Fred every three weeks since January. The only doses she missed were in April 98, when she had a URI. She was shown often at cat shows from January-March.

December, 2002 addition. QT did very well with chemo, finished two years of L-COPP and was declared cured of cancer. A follow up six months after completion of chemo confirmed that there was no mass. In May, 2002, QT was seen by her regular vet and was doing well. Within a week, she was not eating and just not doing well. A visit to Red Bank to confirm that it wasnít cancer, revealed chronic renal failure. She was given subq fluids until August, 2002, when she was euthanized.

CH Algebra's Equal
Seal Point Oriental Shorthair
Sire: Y-NOT WYSIWYG of Algebra
Dam: GC, GP Algebra's X Marks the Spot, DM
born
5/3/97

3/12/98: Equal was in California as a potential breeding queen. Coughing was noted by owner. Chest X-ray revealed mediastinal mass. Within 24 hours, Equal was back in New Jersey visiting Dr. Fred. Treatment was started immediately. She was the only cat with palpable lymph nodes. Aspiration revealed lymphosarcoma.
She is doing well and also missed doses during her URI in 4/98.
10/98: she is now on every 3 week protocol.

December, 2002 addition. Equal finished chemo in April, 2000, and was declared cured. She continues to do well.

Roisin
Born 1/88
Ireland
Seal Lynx Point

10/88: vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, dyspnea, acting depressed. Treated with amoxidrops, and then prednisone. X-ray revealed mediastinal mass. Vincristine given. Prednisone continued. Antirobe started, Serex given.
11/17/88 regurgitation repeatedly noted.
12/88-tumor has shrunk to 1/4 of the original size. Still cannot aspirate cells.
3/24/89-"chest film was clear"
1990-finished chemotherapy
3/98: cat is reported to be in good health.

GC, RW FelitanMick Jaguar of Y-NOT
Ebony Tabby Oriental Shorthair
Born:
5/6/95
Sire: CH Y-NOT the Shadow Nose of Felitan
Dam: GC Korindah Kinieger of Felitan (Australian Import)

12/95: Initially thought to be thymoma (after seeing two vets due to not being able to eat) and scheduled for surgery. Diagnosed with lymphosarcoma. Mediastinal mass was found on x-ray. Cat was sent to referral hospital. He had been unable to keep food down because his esophagus was being compressed by the tumor.
Treated for a full two years with chemo (Vincristine, Cytoxan, and Methotrexate with Prednisone). Was shown during chemo without ill effect. Good response and he is doing well.

Notes:

1. Alvin and Simon's brother, Theodore is alive and well and living in Massachusetts with a nurse and her family.
2. Pocahontas died in 1997 at the age two 1/2 years of a possible seizure disorder. No signs of lymphosarcoma were seen on necropsy. Written report remains unavailable. (As of 2002, her siblings were doing well).

Studies

Dr. Leslie Lyons is doing a study on cats with lymphosarcoma. It is possible that it is genetic. Blood samples are being collected. Most vets will draw the blood for free and National Institute of Health will pay for shipping charges. Write to her at: lalyons@ucdavis.edu

Dr. Heather Lorimer is collecting pedigrees of the cats with lympho. She has viewed several common denominators. Write to Helorimer@cc.ysu.edu

USEFUL LINKS ON WORLD WIDE WEB

Chemotherapy Side effects (this site no longer exists)
Lymphoma Information
Dr. Hahn -- Caring for Pets with Cancer
Lymphoma in Cats -- Australian Study
Lymphoma Information
IOSG Home Page (this site no longer exists)
Lymphoma Resource Pages: Hodgkin's Disease and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Lymphoma Resource Pages - Lymphoma Glossary
Lymphoma Resource Pages - What is Lymphoma?
Ferret Lymphosarcoma FAQ

Talk About Lymphoma

Many of us have been living with cats with lymphosarcoma. They have chemotherapy for up to 2 years before they are declared "cured".

We have formed an on line support group to discuss any and all aspects of the disease. You must be a member to read our files, see our photos, and talk to us. Sign on at felinelymphoma@yahoogroups.com.

This is not a disease of just cats or just Orientals. Several oncologists have been treating felines with lymphoma successfully. If you even think that your cat has lymphoma, please contact one of us for help immediately. It is a fast growing tumor and chemotherapy needs to be started immediately -- even if it is a weekend.

December, 2002 Notes

Cats continue to be diagnosed with feline lymphosarcoma. Young ones treated with long-term chemotherapy continue to do well. Short-term therapies do not seem to have equal results. There are still vets out there who recommend euthanasia instead of consultation with an oncologist. Textbooks continue to talk about feline lymphosarcoma being related to FeLVe and being a lethal disease. There are still vets out there who are so interested in testing and staging that the cat dies before treatment is started. There are still vets out there interested in their wallet and not in the cat or their caretaker. This would be the only explanation for people paying $20 to $125 for the same treatment. As of now, there are 525 members of the feline lymphoma on-line support group.

Click here to send mail to Lynn


close window