Technology Science - YouTube celebrity sea otter gets cancer treatment

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A sea otter at the Vancouver Aquarium that rose to fame four years ago on YouTube has been diagnosed with potentially a deadly illness.

Milo the 12-year-old sea otter became a YouTube sensation after a visitor posted a video of him holding hands with Nyac, a female sea otter, as they floated on their backs at the aquarium.

The video, which was posted online in 2007 has since logged 16 million hits.

But over weekend staff noticed Milo was a bit lethargic and on Monday staff at the aquarium confirmed he has cancer, according to Dr. Martin Haulena, a veterinarian at the aquarium.

"We discovered that Milo has a large number of lymph nodes that were quite distended along with some other problems.... Blood results and also biopsies confirmed a diagnosis of lymphoma," he said.

Treatments show improvements

Haulena says Milo has started treatments involving chemotherapy and other drugs therapies and has shown some improvement already.

But he says it is difficult to give a long-term prognosis for Milo because lymphoma affects different species very differently and there is not much information on how the disease and the treatments affect sea otters.

The disease has been documented before in wild otters recovered after they died in California, but Milo is the first living sea otter to be treated for the disease it appears, he said.

Milo was born in a Portuguese zoo and arrived at the Vancouver Aquarium when he was young.

His partner in the Youtube video, Nyac, a 20-year-old female sea otter, succumbed to chronic lymphatic leukemia in 2008.

Nyac was among eight sea otters brought to the aquarium following the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill that devastated Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989.

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