Animals : an open access journal from MDPI2023; 13(2); 247; doi: 10.3390/ani13020247

Equine Melanocytic Tumors: A Narrative Review.

Abstract: Adult grey horses have a high incidence of melanocytic tumors. This article narratively reviews the role of some genetic features related to melanoma formation in horses, such as STX17 mutation, ASIP or MITF alterations, and the link between the graying process and the development of these tumors. A clear system of clinical and pathological classification of melanocytic tumors in naevus, dermal melanoma, dermal melanomatosis and anaplastic malignant melanoma is provided. Clinical and laboratorial methods of diagnosing are listed, with fine needle aspiration and histopathology being the most relevant. Relevance is given to immunohistochemistry, describing potentially important diagnostic biomarkers such as RACK1 and PNL2. Different therapeutical options available for equine practitioners are mentioned, with surgery, chemotherapy and electroporation being the most common. This article also elucidatesnew fields of research, perspectives, and new therapeutic targets, such as CD47, PD-1 and COX-2 biomarkers.
Publication Date: 2023-01-10 PubMed ID: 36670786PubMed Central: PMC9855132DOI: 10.3390/ani13020247Google Scholar: Lookup
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This research summary has been generated with artificial intelligence and may contain errors and omissions. Refer to the original study to confirm details provided. Submit correction.

The study provides a comprehensive review of the process, classification, diagnosis, and treatment of melanocytic tumors in adult grey horses, with an emphasis on the correlation between genetic factors and tumor development.

Overview of Melanocytic Tumors in Horses

  • This research focuses on melanocytic tumors which are prevalent among adult grey horses. These are tumour formations, heavily influenced by genetic alterations, with mutations in the STX17 gene, ASIP or MITF alterations being key among them.
  • The researchers have additionally examined the link between the process of ageing and graying in horses and the development of these tumors. As an organism ages, alterations occur in genetic codes that contribute to the development of diseases including cancer.

Classification of Melanocytic Tumors

  • In the study, researchers provide a clear classification system for melanocytic tumors. The system classifies the tumors into four main stages: naevus, dermal melanoma, dermal melanomatosis, and anaplastic malignant melanoma.
  • This classification system becomes crucial in determining the stage of a tumor and consequently, the treatment course to pursue.

Diagnosis of Melanocytic Tumors

  • The research details clinical and laboratory methods of diagnosing melanocytic tumors in horses.
  • Some of the key methods mentioned include fine needle aspiration and histopathology.
  • Immunochemistry is given significant emphasis in the paper, with researchers making note of potentially important diagnostic biomarkers such as RACK1 and PNL2. These biomarkers provide clear indications of the presence and stage of a tumor.

Treatment of Melanocytic Tumors

  • Treatment options for melanocytic tumors range from surgery, chemotherapy to electroporation. The choice of treatment is, usually, determined by the stage and severity of the tumor.
  • The paper also discusses new potential therapeutic targets, including CD47, PD-1, and COX-2 biomarkers, indicating possible future advancements in the treatment of melanocytic tumors in horses.


  • The narrative review serves as an illustration of current understanding of equine melanocytic tumors, their diagnosis, and treatment.
  • Additionally, it highlights the potential role of genetics in the development of these tumors and the importance of further research in this area to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Cite This Article

Pimenta J, Prada J, Cotovio M. (2023). Equine Melanocytic Tumors: A Narrative Review. Animals (Basel), 13(2), 247.


ISSN: 2076-2615
NlmUniqueID: 101635614
Country: Switzerland
Language: English
Volume: 13
Issue: 2
PII: 247

Researcher Affiliations

Pimenta, Josu00e9
  • Veterinary Sciencies Department, University of Tru00e1s-os-Montes e Alto Douro, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal.
  • CECAV-Veterinary and Animal Research Center, University of Tru00e1s-os-Montes e Alto Douro, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal.
  • Associate Laboratory for Animal and Veterinary Sciences (AL4AnimalS), University of Tru00e1s-os-Montes e Alto Douro, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal.
Prada, Justina
  • Veterinary Sciencies Department, University of Tru00e1s-os-Montes e Alto Douro, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal.
  • CECAV-Veterinary and Animal Research Center, University of Tru00e1s-os-Montes e Alto Douro, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal.
  • Associate Laboratory for Animal and Veterinary Sciences (AL4AnimalS), University of Tru00e1s-os-Montes e Alto Douro, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal.
Cotovio, Mu00e1rio
  • Veterinary Sciencies Department, University of Tru00e1s-os-Montes e Alto Douro, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal.
  • CECAV-Veterinary and Animal Research Center, University of Tru00e1s-os-Montes e Alto Douro, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal.
  • Associate Laboratory for Animal and Veterinary Sciences (AL4AnimalS), University of Tru00e1s-os-Montes e Alto Douro, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal.

Grant Funding

  • UIDB/CVT/00772/2020 , LA/P/0059/2020 / Fundau00e7u00e3o para a Ciu00eancia e Tecnologia

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to publish the results.


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