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Managing Equine Sarcoids Through Nutrition

Managing Equine Sarcoids Through Nutrition

Rebecca Allan, Assistant Nutritionist


Equine sarcoids are a type of skin cancer found commonly amongst horses, accounting for 40% of all equine cancers. They have a wide range of appearances and characteristics, affecting breeds of all ages and sexes. For most horses, non-painful and non-itchy skin lumps are sarcoids, whereas painful lumps are often related to infection and itchy lumps to allergies, although pain threshold is individual to every horse, so dependent on the location of the sarcoid, they can produce discomfort.


The recurrency of sarcoids is often reported (Melkamu et al., 2018) which is one of the biggest problems horse owners face. Preventing the re-emergence of sarcoids as well as the further growth of existing sarcoids are two aims when dealing with horses prone to sarcoid skin cancer. Targeting these aims through appropriate nutrition can support horses with sarcoids and help horse owners manage the condition.


Astragalus (Boost immune system/ anti-tumour)

Astragalus is a traditional Chinese herb and has been tested on mice with positive results. Mice where injected with Astragalus extracts and through testing, results showed enhanced antibody responses associated with increased Th cell activity in both normal and immune-depressed mice (Zhao et al., 1990).

Also, more recent research has been done on the efficacy of Astragalus in enhancing quality of life and reducing the toxicity of chemotherapy in human patients with malignant tumours. Astragalus (by injection) supplemented by chemotherapy was noted to inhibit the development of tumours, elevate immune function, decrease the toxic or adverse effects of chemotherapy, and improve quality of life in treated patients (Duan et al., 2002).

Turmeric (Anti-tumour)

Curcumin is a naturally occurring yellow pigment present in turmeric and is a potential inhibitor to NF-kB activation (protein which controls transcription of DNA, cytokine production and cell survival). Various studies have shown that curcumin displays anti-tumour effects in various solid tumours and potentiates the effect of several chemotherapeutic agents leading to increased sensitivity even in drug-resistant cancer cells. A study performed in 2013, indicate that the combination of curcumin with conventional chemotherapeutics like 5-FU could provide an improved strategy for colon cancer therapy (Shakibaei et al., 2013).


The anti-cancer properties of curcumin have also been demonstrated in cultured cells and animal studies. Curcumin inhibits the growth of DNA mismatch repair defective colon cancer cells. Therefore, curcumin would be potential treatment for tumours exhibiting DNA mismatch repair deficient and microsatellite instable phenotype (Chauhan, 2002).


Red Clover flowers (Anti-growth)

Red Clover flowers extract were investigated in breast cancer challenged mice alongside the chemotherapy drug, DOX. Results showed that red clover flower extract as a dietary supplement, demonstrated synergistic anti-tumour effects with DOX in Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) challenged mice. Red Clover extract delayed the formation of Breast Cancer tumours and increased apoptosis in 4T1 cells by stimulating T-cell cytokines production, reducing Reactive Oxygen species generation by tumour cells, and finally extending the survival of tumour-bearing mice (Akbaribazm et al., 2020).



Burdock Root (Anti-cancer)

Pharmacological studies showed that Burdock roots have hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, free radical scavenging, and anti-proliferative activities. Recently, anti-proliferative and apoptotic effects of lignans from Burdock were described for leukemic cells as well as anti-tumour effects of arctigenin (extract from Burdock) on pancreatic cancer cell lines. This study aimed to determine the in vitro anti-proliferative activity of eight different Burdock root extracts. It was concluded that Burdock root demonstrates antioxidant and human tumour cell anti-proliferative activities in vitro (Predes et al., 2011).


Clivers (Anti-cancer)

Clivers also known as Galium Aparine (GA) have demonstrated through several in vitro studies their anti-proliferative effects on leukaemia cells, laryngeal carcinoma and head and neck cancer cell lines. Moreover, it is known that some Galium species are traditionally used for treatment of cancerous ulcers or breast cancer in Europe and Northern America. In this study the anti-proliferative effect was examined on human breast cancer cells. Results revealed that GA extract induced different types of cell death in different subtypes of breast cancer cell lines. Therefore, the GA extract may have potential anti-cancer effects against breast cancer cells without impairing normal breast epithelial cells. Ability to induce non-apoptotic cell death besides apoptotic cell death by this plant-derived mixture may enable the killing of apoptosis resistant breast cancer cells (Atmaca et al., 2016).



Black pepper extract (Turmeric bioavailability and anti-tumour)

Black pepper extract also known as Piperine, has been studied and has showed to enhance antioxidant systems, increase levels and activity of detoxifying enzymes, and suppress stem cell self-renewal. Moreover, Piperine has been found to inhibit proliferation and survival of various cancerous cell lines by modulating cell cycle progression and displaying anti-apoptotic activity (Manayi et al., 2018).


Black pepper extract also enhances the absorption and bioavailability of Turmeric (Shoba et al., 1998) therefore further supporting and maximising the effects of Turmeric within the body. In fact, a study concluded that Curcumin and Piperine separately, and in combination, inhibit breast stem cell self-renewal but do not cause toxicity to differentiated cells. Therefore, these compounds could be potential cancer preventive agents (Kakarala et al., 2010).


Linseed (Overall skin health)

Linseed supports overall skin and coat health as well as helping to reduce inflammation and support lesioned skin areas (O´Neill et al., 2002).





Atmaca, H., Bozkurt, E., Cittan, M. & Dilek Tepe, H. (2016). Effects of Galium Aparine Extract on the Cell Viability, Cell Cycle and Cell Death in Breast Cancer Cell Lines. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 186: 305–310.


Akbaribazm, M., Khazaei, M. R., & Khazaei, M. (2020). Trifolium pratense L. (red clover) extract and doxorubicin synergistically inhibits proliferation of 4T1 breast cancer in tumor-bearing BALB/c mice through modulation of apoptosis and increase antioxidant and anti-inflammatory related pathways. Food science & nutrition8(8):4276–4290.


Chauhan, D.P. (2002). Chemotherapeutic Potential of Curcumin for Colorectal Cancer. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 8(19): 1695–1706.

Duan, P & Wang, Z.M. (2002). Clinical study on effect of Astragalus in efficacy enhancing and toxicity reducing of chemotherapy in patients of malignant tumor.  Chinese journal of integrated traditional and Western medicine, 22(7):515-517.

Kakarala, M., Brenner, D. E., Korkaya, H., Cheng, C., Tazi, K., Ginestier, C., Liu, S., Dontu, G., & Wicha, M. S. (2010). Targeting breast stem cells with the cancer preventive compounds curcumin and piperine. Breast cancer research and treatment122(3):777–785.


Melkamu, S., Chanie, M. & Asrat, M. (2018). A review on equine sarcoid: current techniques employed in sciences for diagnosis, prevention, and control. International Journal of Advanced Research in Biological Science, 5(2): 155-164.


O’Neill, W., McKee, S. & Clarke, A.F. (2002). Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation associated with reduced skin test lesional area in horses with Culicoides hypersensitivity. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research. 66(4): 272-277


Predes, F. S., Ruiz, A. L., Carvalho, J. E., Foglio, M. A., & Dolder, H. (2011). Antioxidative and in vitro antiproliferative activity of Arctium lappa root extracts. BMC complementary and alternative medicine11, 25.


Shakibaei, M., Mobasheri, A., Lueders, C., Busch, F., Shayan, P. & Goel, A. (2013). Curcumin Enhances the Effect of Chemotherapy Against Colorectal Cancer Cells by Inhibition of NF-κB and Src Protein Kinase Signalling Pathways. PloS one, 8(2): e57218.


Shoba, G., Joy, D., Joseph, T., Majeed, M., Rajendran, R. & Srinivas, P.S. (1998). Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Medica, 64(4):353-356.

Zhao, K.S., Mancini, C. & Doria, G. (1990). Enhancement of the immune response in mice by Astragalus membranaceus extracts. Immunopharmacology, 20(3):225-233.