Glacier was believed to be the first polar bear treated with chemotherapy in the U.S. He died Wednesday at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
The first polar bear believed to be treated with chemotherapy in the United States died Wednesday at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium from liver cancer, officials said Friday.
Glacier, 19, was diagnosed in February with advanced liver cancer, which spread to his lungs and abdominal lymph nodes. He also suffered from heart disease.
“Our entire zoo family is saddened by the loss of Glacier,” said Karen Goodrowe Beck, the zoo’s general curator. “He was a magnificent ambassador for his species, helping hundreds of thousands of zoo visitors to connect with polar bears and learn more about the perils they face in the wild.”
Glacier was one of three polar bears at Point Defiance. He came to Tacoma in 1997 with another bear, Blizzard, after the two were orphaned in Manitoba, Canada. Boris, 29, also lives at the zoo in the Arctic Tundra area.
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A routine exam in February uncovered Glacier’s mass and heart murmur.
Veterinarians worked most of the year with specialists in cardiology, radiology, oncology and surgery to devise a unique treatment plan for the polar bear’s cancer.
Oral and intravenous chemotherapy started in April with the help of Dr. Lisa Parshley from Olympia Veterinary Cancer Center.
“Glacier was extremely sick from two very bad diseases when we first diagnosed him,” zoo veterinarian Karen Wolf said. “He was not moving well, he was sleeping more, he wasn’t interacting with zookeepers and he was uncomfortable.”
She said the treatment improved his quality of life for the last eight months and allowed him to eat more, wander near the stream in his exhibit, participate in his training and swim in his saltwater pool.
A necropsy was performed Thursday. He died of complications from a large liver tumor, according to Point Defiance Zoo.
The record of his treatment likely will help with the future treatment of polar bears, and possibly other bears, Wolf said.
Glacier was 9 feet tall and weighed about 950 pounds.