Chemotherapy has been used for anal sac adenocarcinoma because of the high rates of local metastatic disease and recurrence.
The information in retrospective studies can be difficult to interpret because chemotherapy is often administered along with
surgery and radiation or is only administered in dogs with advanced disease, which limits the conclusions that can be drawn
about the effect of the chemotherapy. Drugs that have been used include mitoxantrone, doxorubicin, melphalan, cisplatin, carboplatin,
5-fluorouracil, mithramycin, vincristine and cyclophosphamide, epirubicin, and actinomycin-D.4-8
4B. A lateral caudal abdominal radiograph taken of the same dog as in Figure 4A three months after palliative radiation therapy,
showing a partial reduction in the size of the iliac lymph nodes and less compression of the colon as it enters the pelvic
canal. (The staples were placed during surgery to aid in radiation planning.)
In one study, two of four dogs with unresectable anal sac gland carcinomas that received carboplatin exhibited decreased mass
size sufficient to permit surgical resection.6 In the same study, 12 of 40 dogs with iliac lymphadenopathy had relief of fecal obstipation after carboplatin treatment.6 A different study reported a partial reduction in tumor size in four out of 13 dogs with anal sac adenocarcinoma treated
with cisplatin alone and in one out of three dogs treated with carboplatin alone.4 Favorable survival times have been reported in dogs treated with radiation, surgery, and mitoxantrone (n = 15) and surgery
with oral daily melphalan (n = 19); however, the individual role of chemotherapy in those studies cannot be determined as
there were no control groups.5,7
Given the reported partial responses, the platinum agents appear to have some efficacy against anal sac adenocarcinoma and
may be appropriate for adjuvant or neoadjuvant (preliminary) therapy.
The survival time for dogs with anal sac adenocarcinoma varies, and retrospective studies have attempted to identify significant
prognostic factors. The overall median survival time in two larger studies evaluating 80 and 113 dogs was 479 and 544 days,
respectively.6,8 The dogs in these studies received a wide variation in treatments, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy,
making it difficult to draw conclusions about the effect of individual treatment modalities or effective chemotherapy protocols.
In the larger study, dogs that underwent surgery as a part of their treatment had an improved survival time compared with
dogs that received chemotherapy alone.8 Larger tumors, the presence of distant metastatic disease, and hypercalcemia have been variably associated with a significantly
decreased survival time.3,6,8 The median survival time was higher at 956 days in a study of 15 dogs that were all treated in the same manner with surgery,
radiation, and mitoxantrone chemotherapy.7 None of the tumors in the dogs in this study had spread beyond the iliac lymph nodes, which may have contributed to the
lengthy survival time.7
Because of the prognostic significance of tumor size at diagnosis and the presence of metastatic disease, the most favorable
prognosis can be expected with early detection and aggressive treatment. Although hypercalcemia has been associated with a
decreased survival time in some studies, it has not been a consistent finding.4,7,11 The presence of hypercalcemia should not warrant a more conservative approach, given that favorable responses and prolonged
survival times with appropriate treatment have been reported.7,11
Anal sac adenocarcinoma is a locally invasive tumor with a high rate of metastasis to the local lymph nodes. Clinical signs
may be associated with partial obstruction of the colon or rectum by the primary tumor or enlarged metastatic lymph nodes.
In many cases, the tumor is an incidental finding on routine physical examination. Hypercalcemia is present in up to half
of cases and may contribute to the presenting clinical signs; it typically resolves with surgical removal of the tumor. Routine
staging includes a complete blood count, a serum chemistry profile, a urinalysis, thoracic radiography, and abdominal ultrasonography.
A multimodal treatment approach is recommended, with surgery and radiation therapy providing local control. The ideal chemotherapy
protocol for preventing or delaying recurrence or the development of metastatic disease is still undefined. Early detection
and treatment are imperative to achieving the most favorable outcome.
Meredith Gauthier, DVM, DACVIM (oncology)*
Lisa G. Barber, DVM, DACVIM (oncology)
Kristine E. Burgess, MS, DVM, DACVIM (oncology)
Department of Clinical Sciences
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
North Grafton, MA 01536
Mississauga Oakville Veterinary Emergency Hospital and Referral Group
2285 Bristol Circle
Oakville, ON L6H 6P8
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