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Unique partnerships keeps Bob the Pony healthy as a horse

BE THE MODELTM STRATEGIC PLAN: Referral Veterinary Medical Center of Choice

With seven health sciences colleges, an academic medical center and an academic veterinary medical center on one campus, Ohio State leads in health innovation. The Health Science Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Optometry, Pharmacy, Public Health and Veterinary Medicine, along with other partners across campus, closely collaborate to discover the latest advances in healthcare.

And nowhere is that collaboration more evident than in the case of Bob the Pony.

“Our patient, Bob, has a condition called chronic lymphocytic leukemia,” says Teresa Burns, MS, DVM, PhD, DACVIM assistant professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Science. “In horses, chronic lymphocytic leukemia is exceedingly rare. We’ve never seen one here at Ohio State, and in the published equine medical literature, there have been four cases reported, total.”

Luckily for Dr. Burns, the veterinary medicine team and, most importantly, Bob, Ohio State is home to some of the nation’s leading hematologists—doctors who specialize in diseases and cancers of the blood. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, while rare in horses, is fairly common in humans and is the primary research focus of Jennifer Woyach, MD, and John C. Byrd, MD, both of Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC). So, when Dr. Burns was looking for ideas on how to best treat Bob’s illness, it made perfect sense to turn to the experts.

“This collaboration, like many collaborations that happen here in this sort of mixing vessel that is Ohio State, came up sort of by chance,” notes Dr. Burns. “I happened to be at a meeting, sitting next to a hematologist, and asked her what they routinely do for relapsing chronic lymphocytic leukemia in people. That afternoon, after speaking with her, I had an email address for Dr. Byrd and Dr. Woyach and we had started this collaboration. It was an accident, but these kinds of things happen all the time here, just because of the proximity of our seven health sciences colleges, and the fact that there’s a lot of crosstalk between all of us.”

Drs. Woyach and Byrd were able to steer Burns in the direction of a drug, Ibrutinib, that has proven to be highly effective in humans. The medication also has a history at Ohio State, as it was tested while in clinical development on both human and canine patients at the university.

Bob’s owner is a longtime client of the Veterinary Medical Center’s Galbreath Equine Center and Hummel and Trueman Hospital for Companion Animals, which are regional referral centers of choice, combining specialty medical and surgical care with outstanding imaging and diagnostic capabilities.

“We’ve had a longstanding collaboration with the College of Veterinary Medicine,” says Dr. Woyach. “One of the most exciting things for us is that we have a lot of experience testing drugs in animals and then taking them into human patients. Now we had the opportunity to actually take a drug that we know works well in humans and take it back to an animal patient.”

For his part, Bob is responding well to the Ibrutinib regimen. And, due to the rarity of his disease and the effectiveness of his treatment, he has become something of a VIP in the Galbreath Equine Center. He even became known as the “grandpa” of the center due to his proximity to the neonatal ICU and his affectionate behavior towards the newborn foals he saw every day. Bob is now back at home and doing well, although he is not the best at taking his oral medications.


Bob and his team of caregivers were featured on Big Ten Network LiveBIG last fall, airing regularly during Buckeye football games! Check out the segment at

The College of Veterinary Medicine's BE THE MODELTM Strategic Plan outlines the college's ambition to Be the Model comprehensive college of veterinary medicine in the world. This innovative partnership is one example of our dedication to providing the best possible care and our goal to be the referral veterinary medical center of choice. Learn more about the strategic plan and other advances at the college.

Last updated: 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - 1:07pm