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LSU News Release: Mike VI has Cancer

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University mascot does not appear to be in pain; vet staff announces treatment plan

Billy Gomila

Piece of bad news this morning, as LSU released a statement that Mike VI, the university's live tiger mascot, has spindle cell sarcoma, a form of cancer.

Currently, Mike's attitude and demeanor are unchanged, and he does not appear to be in pain.

Mike's veterinarian, David Baker, DVM, PhD, and his veterinary student caretakers previously noticed swelling on the right side of Mike's face. On Thursday, May 12, Mike was sedated in his night house and then brought to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine for a physical examination and diagnostic tests.

Once at the LSU SVM, Mike was put under general anesthesia and given a CT (computed tomography) scan to determine the cause of the swelling. All diagnostic findings were reviewed by multiple specialists, both at LSU and at other institutions, and it was determined that Mike has a tumor in his face near his nose. Biopsy analysis led to a diagnosis of spindle cell sarcoma, which is a malignant tumor derived from fibrous connective tissues of the bone. This is an extremely rare form of cancer, but this type of cancer is unlikely to spread to other areas of the body.

The release details that Mike will undergo targeted radiation treatment at the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center here in town. With treatment, he could live another one to two years. Without treatment, it is estimated that he would live just another month or two.

Well, this is certainly a bummer. LSU acquired Mike VI shortly before the 2007 season -- one of my fondest memories of working for the university was the day we introduced him to his habitat. He's always been a very energetic animal with an interesting personality. One also has to wonder what the process will be like for finding another animal. Replacing Mike V in an ethical manner -- i.e., not just buying a tiger on the black market or from some fool who had and needed to get rid of it -- was a real challenge for Dr. David Baker and the LSU Vet School team.

Still, it's good to know he's not in any pain at the moment, and let's think some happy thoughts for the big guy. Follow http://www.lsu.edu/miketiger for updates on Mike's condition.