Thailand claims world’s first cancer operation and intravenous chemotherapy for elephant

Thai veterinarians have successfully removed a 5-kg cancerous tumor from the intestines of a female elephant and, later, applied intravenous chemotherapy until the animal was cleared of cancer in what could be claimed as the world’s first case of successful cancer treatment of an elephant.

Sarun Chansitthivech, manager of the Lampang-Krabi elephant conservation centre of the National Elephant Institute, has attributed the successful operation and follow-up intravenous therapy to good cooperation from veterinary faculties of Kasetsart, Chiang Mai and Chulalongkorn universities which have provided necessary equipment used during the operation process.

He said that the 30-year-old female elephant, Thongdee, was very weak and thin when it was first brought to the elephant hospital in the northern province of Lampang early last year.

With the equipment sent from various veterinary faculties, the veterinarians found a big tumor in the intestines of Thongdee which was eventually diagnosed as cancerous, said Sarun, adding that an operation was performed to remove the cancerous tumor which was found to weigh about five kilogrammes.

He, however, said that when the vets first applied intravenous chemotherapy, they were afraid that Thongdee might develop serious side effects, but it didn’t and was able to eat and to defecate as usual.

Although its condition has improved steadily, Thongdee is still placed under close watch of the vets at the elephant hospital in Lampang, said Mr Sarun, adding that Thongdee could be the first case of successful operation and intravenous chemotherapy in the world.

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