Archive for the ‘Cancer Research’ Category

National Canine Cancer Foundation to fund a new innovative Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) Research Project

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

I have some new exciting news. As you all know we are always trying to find an new edge in the battle against canine cancer. And Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is one of those cancers we would like to get a better handle on since it seems to end up being diagnosed too late to save the dog. In fact, we are so keen on finding out how to deal with HSA that we have actually initiated our own research project on HSA with G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. This is very exciting for the NCCF because this type of research on HSA has never been tried. Let me tell you how it all came about by first talking about a dog name Batman.

Batman was the first dog to undergo a breakthrough experimental treatment for brain cancer, led by doctors, G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. They developed a combination treatment plan for dogs with glioma, a very aggressive and relatively common form of brain cancer. First they removed the tumor surgically. Then, in some cases, they use local gene therapy to attract immune cells to destroy remaining tumor cells, and finally they created a personalized anti-cancer vaccine made from the dog’s own cancer cells to prevent tumor recurrence.

I personally love the thought of taking a cancer that was killing a dog and turning it into a personalized vaccine to kill the cancer!

Dr. Pluhar, a surgeon at the Veterinary Medical Center, and Dr. Ohlfest, head of the neurosurgery gene therapy program at the Masonic Cancer Center, gave Batman his initial treatment in August 2008. Batman led a normal life unaffected by his tumor until his death from cardiac failure in February 2010, there was no tumor recurrence. According to the Dean of the College, Trevor Ames, DVM, MS, “the far-reaching implications of this promising new treatment are almost difficult to fathom; not only could these treatments lead to a cure for brain and other systemic cancers in dogs, but because dogs and humans share many physiological traits, dogs could also be the missing link in the cure for brain cancer in humans.”

Then something interesting happened. Almost one year ago, Davis Hawn’s then 8-year-old yellow lab, Booster, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his nasal sinus. Booster was given three weeks to live. Hawn did not want to accept the death sentence and began searching the country for a cure. His search led him to doctors in Florida who removed Booster’s tumor and gave him chemo. An online search then led him to Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar from the University of Minnesota’s canine brain tumor clinical program. Davis asked her to help his dog, but Dr. Pluhar had never made a vaccine for this type of cancer before. But Davis was not going to take no for an answer so she did agree to try. She shipped the vaccine off and ten months later Booster is cancer free.

Then after Davis contacted the NCCF to tell us about how well the vaccine works, we contacted Dr. Pluhar to ask if she would be willing to try the same research that was successful with brain cancer and skin cancer, and use the same protocol to try dealing with splenic HSA. The NCCF’s thinking is that with all these other cancers, the similarities were that the cancer had to be removed and a vaccine needed to be created from the cancer cells. With splenic HSA, one of the more common forms of HSA, the spleen is typically removed so we felt that Dr. Pluhar’s research could possibly work. With that in mind, we asked her if she could try and apply her protocol on splenic HSA. After doing some initial research she agreed to do the study based on reaching certain goals before going on to the next level.

First, she needs to insure that we can culture the cancer cells in the lab,

Second, she needs to insure that the tumor vaccines stimulate immune cells to attack tumor cells. If she can achieve these two steps she can go on to treat the HSA cancer. We could not be happier and are guardedly optimistic over this research project.

The cost for this project will be $55,500. I hope you are all as excited as we are about this research and will help fund the project. If you want to help with funding this new innovative NCCF’s initiated project please CLICK HERE or got to this link

Thank you

Gary D. Nice
President and Founder
National Canine Cancer Foundation

The Journey Toward a Vaccine Against Melanoma in Dogs

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The drive to create a vaccine against melanoma, a serious cancer in dogs, has been going on for years with many successes and failures along the road. As May is pet cancer awareness month, let’s take a look at the history of a major development that is helping veterinarians to fight this disease in dogs.

A new melanoma treatment could help affected dogs live better and longer lives. (Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

Vaccine Refresher

You probably already know this, but just to recap, vaccines are given to both humans and pets to provide protection against an infectious disease, such as influenza or parvovirus. Many vaccines typically contain a portion of a disease-causing virus or bacteria (or sometimes a “safe” form of the entire organism). When the vaccine is administered, the immune system is stimulated to fight a particular disease. The vaccine teaches the immune system to make antibodies that will ideally destroy the virus or bacteria should the person or pet become exposed.

This method of sparking the immune system to fight off infectious disease inspired doctors to consider a similar approach to fighting cancer.

Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Cancer

Interest in using a cancer patient’s own immune system to fight cancer in the same way that vaccines help us to fight infectious disease is not new. Physicians in the late 1800’s occasionally noticed that tumors would regress when cancer patients developed a severe infection. That’s because the severe infection “ramped up” the patient’s immune system. Not only did the patient’s immune system control the infection in some cases, but as a side effect, the cancer briefly regressed as well. This led to unsuccessful attempts to cure cancer by inducing infections in cancer patients.

Modern efforts to harness a patient’s own immune system to treat melanoma, a serious cancer in dogs, began in the mid 1980’s. Veterinary researchers found that administering a bacterium, Corynebacterium parvum, to canine melanoma patients improved survival in some by activating the immune system against the bacteria and hitting the melanoma cells as collateral damage from the immune system activation. However, this method of immunotherapy has been largely abandoned in favor of treatments that more specifically target tumor cells themselves.

A different approach to melanoma immunotherapy that was developed about 10 years ago used a vaccine made from the patient’s own immune system. Immune system cells taken from a dog diagnosed with melanoma were mixed in a laboratory with melanoma cells and immune-stimulating compounds. This process helped “program” the immune system cells to attack the patient’s melanoma. However, this “personalized” vaccine was not very practical as the vaccine could only be produced one dog at a time. As a result, it remains a research tool rather than a clinical therapy.

Yet another experimental approach to treatment of melanoma in dogs requires genetic engineering. Genes essential for the production of white blood cells are inserted into melanoma cells grown in the laboratory. When these genetically engineered melanoma cells are injected into canine patients, the white blood cells mount an immune response against the dog’s melanoma and destroy it. Because the injected cells help to initiate an immune response, this is considered another form of vaccination, but it still has not reached the veterinary market.

As we can see, multiple approaches to developing a melanoma vaccine have been tried, but none of these personalized vaccines are in clinical use today. The fact that these vaccines have not reached the market says more about the difficulty of producing personalized vaccines on a large scale for veterinary patients than it does about the ability of personalized vaccines to control tumors, as some of them have been used as therapies in humans.

Wider Reaching Success: Treating Every Melanoma

The opposite of a personalized melanoma vaccine is a vaccine that is effective against every melanoma. In 2001, researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Animal Medical Center joined forces to develop such a vaccine for dogs suffering from melanoma. Melanoma is a tumor derived from pigment-producing cells. This vaccine targets tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in the production of pigment that is present in all melanoma cells. The vaccine causes an immune system attack on cells containing the tyrosinase enzyme. Since tyrosinase is limited to cells producing the pigment, the vaccine has limited impact on the patient but a big impact on melanoma cells. A clinical trial in dogs diagnosed with advanced melanoma and treated with the vaccine showed that they lived for more than 15 months compared to 5 months for dogs not treated with the vaccine. This vaccine is approved for use in dogs suffering from oral melanoma, although it may also work in other areas of the body where melanoma is occurring.

The long story of melanoma vaccine development shows the hard work and perseverance necessary to develop a new and successful cancer treatment. Fortunately, all this effort has resulted in a new treatment that, when added to traditional therapies of surgery and radiation, can help affected dogs live better and longer.

The immunotherapy approach to cancer treatment will likely be used to treat other cancers in the future. The challenge to cancer researchers is to identify the unique target on the cancer cells that will stimulate the immune system to eradicate the tumor without damaging any other cells. Or, in other words, to find ways to teach your “old” dog’s immune system new tricks!

Article reposted from:
By Dr. Ann Hohenhaus |

Dogs, people team up to develop drug testing device

Monday, April 27th, 2015

A new device could speed the development of cancer drugs for both people and pets by allowing scientists to test multiple drugs within a living tumor.

The device, called CIVO™, looks like a pocket flashlight studded with needles. It delivers tiny doses of up to eight different cancer drugs or combinations, allowing doctors to study the effects of the drugs simultaneously and saving valuable research time.

Dr. Karelle Meleo, a board-certified veterinary oncologist with ACCES, a BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital, participated in the clinical trial to test the device and contributed to a study that was published in the May 2015 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Results of the published study show use of CIVO in canine patients demonstrated that microinjection of drugs is toxicity-sparing while inducing robust, easily tracked, drug-specific responses in naturally occurring tumors.
Researchers from Presage Biosciences, who developed the patented device and analysis technology, said the information gained from testing the device on dogs whose owners brought them to ACCES and other local veterinarians for cancer treatment was extremely valuable.

“Cells don’t behave the same in a dish as they do in the body,” said Meleo, who has published multiple scientific articles on veterinary oncology. “Being able to test this device in actual, living tumors is what made this study very exciting.”

After injecting the tumor with microscopic doses of the drugs, about 1/20th the size of a raindrop, the tumor was removed and analyzed to see which drug was most effective at killing cancer cells.
Testing tiny doses of multiple drugs at once not only saves time, it also decreases the risk of exposing patients to unnecessary side effects, Meleo said.

“When treating cancer, there are always going to be drugs that turn out to be a dead end,” said Meleo. “You’re risking toxicity from drugs that are never going to help you.”

While the device was developed for use in human medicine, it may also be a powerful tool in fighting cancer in dogs, Meleo said.

“There’s no reason that it can’t be used in veterinary medicine,” she added.

Article reposted from:

Gene Signatures Predict Treatment Response in Canine Bone Cancer

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

There are two chemotherapies commonly used to treat bone cancer in dogs: doxorubicin and carboplatin. Some dogs respond better to one drug than to the other. But until now, the choice has been left largely to chance. New work by University of Colorado Cancer Center members at Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center presented today at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2015 demonstrates a gene expression model that predicts canine osteosarcoma response to doxorubicin, potentially allowing veterinary oncologists to better choose which drug to use with their patients. The approach is adopted from and further validates a model known as COXEN (CO-eXpression gEne aNalysis), developed at the CU Cancer Center by center director Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, which is currently in clinical trials to predict the response of human tumors to drugs.

“This is a cool thing for us, showing that we can use human models in canine cancer, and hinting that the reverse might also be true: the lessons we learn from canine osteosarcoma may help us better understand the human disease,” says Daniel L. Gustafson, PhD, CU Cancer Center investigator and director for basic research at the Flint Animal Cancer Center.

The COXEN model depends on the idea that cancer can be defined as the sum of its genetic alterations. Rather than looking at a cancer by its site in the body – say lung cancer or prostate cancer or breast cancer – the COXEN model evaluates a panel of genes known to be important to the development of cancer and uses gene expression to label the cancer with a genetic signature. The model then compares the genetic signature of a cancer to the genetic signatures of cancers for which we have treatment and outcome data. If the genetic signature of one cancer matches the genetic signature of another, the same treatment may be appropriate.

Clinical trials are underway at the CU Cancer Center in which human tumor samples are evaluated with the COXEN model and then the model’s recommended treatment is compared with results of the actual treatment.

“This study shows that we can use the COXEN model to accurately predict our patients’ responses to doxorubicin,” Gustafson says. “But the key here is that in addition to it being a personalized medicine approach for dogs, we are using veterinary science to further validate this tool that could help human cancer patients.”

Article reposted from:
By Garth Sundem

Canine Cancer patients shedding light on Human Cancer

Monday, April 13th, 2015

If you have cancer and your dog has cancer, it turns out you may be treated with the exact same drugs.

An innovative initiative at the University of Missouri combines traditional cancer research and care with veterinary medicine. This benefits our canine friends and, ultimately, human cancer patients.

Dr. Jeff Bryan walks with Susie at the University of Missouri veterinary school. (Photo by Bridgit Bowden/ Flatland)

Dr. Carolyn Henry, a veterinary oncologist at the University of Missouri veterinary school, said — unlike lab mice — dogs get cancer naturally just like humans. Their cancers are more likely to behave like human cancer when treated.

Dr. Carolyn Henry is a professor of oncology at the University of Missouri Veterinary School.

“It’s the same disease. It really doesn’t matter what the species is,” Henry said. “It’s the same disease if it occurs naturally. And so, answers in one species should translate to answers in other species, in many cases.”

At the University of Missouri animal hospital in March, veterinary oncologist Dr. Jeff Bryan treated a 13-year-old dog named Susie for a possible tumor in her bladder.

He said our pets face the same environmental risk factors for cancer that humans do.

Dr. Jeff Bryan is an associate professor of oncology at the University of Missouri Veterinary School.

“They have all the same exposures that we have in our lives,” Bryan said. “They breathe our air, they may breathe our cigarette smoke. They live in our houses, they drink our drinking water.”

Thanks to an initiative called One Health/One Medicine, university researchers and doctors are working together to develop new treatments for cancer. Some of the drugs, like one called Quadramet, were developed at the university’s nuclear research reactor.

David Robertson, the reactor’s associate director of research and education, said timing is crucial while working with radioactive isotopes that break down over time.

“If I make Samarium 153 in the reactor on Monday, by Wednesday, half of it is gone,” Robertson said. “By Friday, I only have a quarter of it left. If I’m going to use this radioactive material in new drug development for something that has a half-life that short, it’s very convenient to have the vet school, the med school, the chemistry and isotope production all located on the same campus.”

Susie, a patient at the University of Missouri veterinary school, is being treated for a possible bladder tumor.

Quadramet was tested first in dogs at the university’s veterinary school. Because dogs age much faster than humans, their cancers also advance much more quickly. That means if you’re a clinical researcher, you’ll see results sooner.

“What you would see as a five-year survival success rate in people would probably correlate to a one-year survival rate in a dog, so we definitely get our answers more quickly,” Henry said.

Bryan said pet owners who have been touched by cancer themselves are often the ones to seek more experimental treatment for their pets.

“They have a really personal motivation to try and help their animal,” Bryan said. “And those are often the patients we see in clinical trials because they want the cancer their animal has to be meaningful in the whole large scheme of fighting cancer.”

Here, Bryan is echoing something oncologists frequently say: that clinical trials are key to innovation in cancer research — both for humans and for our dogs.

Article reposted from:
By Bridgit Bowden

Scientists take a step brazen to know causes for dog bone cancer

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Researchers during a University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine have identified resource that might give some cancer cells a ability to form tumors in dogs. Results of a investigate are suspicion to yield new targets for destiny treatments that could urge outcomes for dog patients. Furthermore, investigate might also have implications for tellurian cancers by detailing a new pathway for swelling formation.

Understanding probable biological triggers for dog bone cancer can assistance formulating new treatments and even yield new insights for osteosarcoma mechanisms in humans as well. Photo courtesy: Nik Hawkins

During a investigate they examined dungeon lines generated from dogs with osteosarcoma, also famous as a common bone cancer that also affects people. Researchers were perplexing to expose because usually some cells beget tumors. Cells were taken after dogs underwent tumor-removal medicine and afterwards were grown in a lab. This led to 6 opposite cancer dungeon lines, that were afterwards transplanted into mice.

The researchers found several hundred genes that voiced differently between a tumor-forming and no tumor-forming dungeon lines. However, a protein called frizzled-6 was benefaction during levels 8 times aloft in cells that shaped tumors. This protein acts like a receiving wharf for sold forms of information, relaying signals from a outward to a inside of a cell.

It creates molecular connectors that activate pathways, some of that umpire a growth, separate and emigration of cells when operative properly. But when they are not operative properly, tumors and tumor-initiating cells might appear. However, a accurate purpose of frizzled-6 in this routine is not nonetheless entirely understood, though scientists consider a countenance might be stopping a sold signaling pathway and contributing to a arrangement of tumor-initiating cells.

Further investigate is needed, though frizzled-6 protein in a destiny might turn new aim for innovative treatment. Bettering a bargain of a purpose of this protein would assistance urge a correctness of a prognoses, though many questions and a lot of work in a investigate sojourn to be approached. However, this work will assistance not usually for canines, though for humans as well.

Now scientists will try to make certain that frizzled-6 is truly what gives these cells a ability to form new tumors. But from here investigate will separate into dual parts. Timothy Stein will continue this line of investigate in tellurian cancer patients, while, a lead author on a study, Lucas Rodrigues, is stability a review in dogs.

Osteosarcoma is fundamentally a carcenogenic swelling in a bone. Typically it afflicts prime vast and hulk multiply dogs such as irish wolfhounds, greyhounds, german shepherds, rottweilers and others. But it is a many common histological form of primary bone cancer in humans as well, many prevalent in children and immature adults. Finding causes that could potentially turn targets for innovative treatments, would assistance both animals and humans.

When if ever a formula of this investigate are going to find ways into clinical applications we will have to wait and see. But even now they yield wish that some-more effective diagnosis process can be grown once mechanisms of osteosarcoma combining are accepted better. It could assistance both, humans and best man’s friends.

Article reposted from:

When Cancer in Dogs Isn't Just Bad Luck

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

While it’s true research has shown that a roll of the dice determines most cases of cancer, there is an area where the incidence of cancer is not a function of bad luck but of something more concrete: genetics. As a follow-up to my earlier article, I thought it would be useful to look at why this is so and to also consider that, if there is a silver lining here, it is that the predisposition for developing cancer among certain breeds may provide researchers with tools to better study cancer in dogs and ultimately in people.

American Golden Retrievers are more prone to hemangiosarcoma than U.K. Goldens. This suggests that the risk of the deadly tumor is related to a genetic alteration. (Image credit: Thinkstock)

A Closed Gene Pool

From a genetic standpoint, each breed of purebred dog is a closed, isolated population. Because a registered dog must have ancestors who were registered as well, no new genes enter a purebred dog population, except in extraordinary situations sanctioned by the breed registry. Every purebred dog is a relative, albeit a distant one, of the other dogs within that breed. Since most dogs are never bred but instead live out their lives as pets, the “doggie gene pool” remains relatively small. Selective breeding for each registry maintains the puppy face of the Bernese Mountain Dog, the mahogany coat color of the Hungarian Vizsla and the fluffy black fur of the Flat-Coated Retriever. However, genes that increase a dog’s risk of developing cancer also seem to have tagged along with the genes that control things like facial features, coat color and fur fluffiness. Those genes place these three breeds at the top of the list of dogs with an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.

A Genetic Treasure Trove

If there is an upside to the limited genetic diversity of purebred dogs, it is their unsurpassed ability to elucidate the genetics behind various cancers and other hereditary diseases. Using the map of the canine genome and the extensive family trees from purebred dogs, the DNA of dogs with a high risk of developing a certain kind of cancer can be compared to dogs with a low risk of developing that type of cancer. The genetic differences identified are likely areas of the canine genome where the genes for increased cancer risk lie. Once the genes are identified, tests can be developed and used to help avoid breeding individual dogs with the “bad genes.” Right now, scientists are just at the point of identifying these genes.

In part, the common ancestry of dogs has perpetuated mutations that increase the risk of or directly cause cancer. Genetic analysis of wolves and dogs shows divergence of dogs from ancestral wolves around 11,000 to 16,000 years ago. Ancient Australian and African breeds, such as the Dingo and Basenji, became distinct about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, but most of the modern breeds of dogs, like Mastiffs and Herding dogs, are quite recent innovations in dog breeding, stemming only from Victorian times.

The Mastiff Group, which for genetic purposes here is different from the traditional Sporting, Working andHound Groups we see breeds organized into at dog shows, is a genetically determined grouping of related dogs. This Mastiff Group includes several genetically related dog breeds that have an increased risk of cancer. For example, Boxers are prone to mast cell tumors, Bernese Mountain Dogs to histiocytic sarcoma, Golden Retrievers to lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma, and Rottweilers to osteosarcoma. The exact genetic abnormality resulting in an increased risk of cancer in these and other predisposed breeds is still under intense investigation and supported by the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Health Foundation and theMorris Animal Foundation, to name two of the major funding agencies behind this groundbreaking research.

The Golden Effect

Let’s take a look at just one popular breed to see how the genetics of cancer play out. The honey-coatedGolden Retriever, who originated in the United Kingdom, was recognized by the AKC in 1925 and ranks third in popularity among AKC registered breeds.

The large number of Golden Retrievers in the United States, plus their devoted families, has resulted in an active research community surrounding this beloved breed. That’s good, because Golden Retrievers are known to have a high risk of hemangiosarcoma, a deadly tumor found in several areas of the body including the spleen, liver and heart. When scientists study the DNA of Goldens diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and compare it to other breeds of dogs diagnosed with the same disease, the genetic abnormalities are different. Interestingly, American Golden Retrievers differ from their U.K. counterparts: Goldens from the U.K. are largely spared this dreaded disease. When studied in a laboratory, the genes of American and U.K. Goldens are significantly different, suggesting that the risk of hemangiosarcoma is related to a relatively recent genetic alteration.

Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) is another type of cancer commonly diagnosed in Golden Retrievers. The manifestation of lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma appears to be unrelated except for the frequent occurrence of both in Golden Retrievers. Now, through study of the canine genome, researchers have identified genetic alterations common to Goldens with either lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma. These alterations, or mutations, modify the regulation of the immune system’s surveillance for tumor cells, currently thought to be a common mechanism underlying the occurrence of these two dissimilar tumors in this breed.

Size and Color Play a Role

Though genes are important in the development of certain cancers, a single gene is unlikely to be the sole cause of cancer. For example, the genes controlling size appear to also play a role in the development of canine osteosarcoma, the most common form of bone cancer in dogs. Whippets and Greyhounds are physically very similar, with the Whippet being an apparently smaller version of the Greyhound. The similarity continues at the level of their DNA, and these two breeds are genetically very similar when their genes are compared in a laboratory. However, their risk of developing osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, is very different. This deadly tumor occurs commonly in Greyhounds but is rare in Whippets. In fact, it is uncommon in all dogs weighing less than 25 kilograms, suggesting that the genes controlling body size also play a role in the development of osteosarcoma in dogs.

Genes influencing coat color can also apparently play a role in cancer development. I have cared for a number of black Standard Poodles with multiple toes affected by nail bed (the skin at the base of the toe)squamous cell carcinoma, but never a white, brown or apricot poodle. Recently released data shows a genetic basis for my clinical observation. Standard Poodles diagnosed with nail bed squamous cell carcinoma have a variation in the number of copies of a gene known as KITLG. A similar number of light-coated Standard Poodles also have the same variation in the number of copies of the KITLG, but a simultaneous mutation in a different gene in the lighter-coated poodles apparently protects them from the cancer-promoting effects of the bad gene. Even more interesting is the finding of this same variation in the KITLG gene inBriards and Giant Schnauzers, two other black-coated breeds with an increased risk of developing nail bed squamous cell carcinoma.

What Can You Do?

When selecting a canine companion, it’s important to realize that any breed, as well as mixed-breed dogs, can and do get cancer – that’s where “bad luck” or other factors can come into play. And even if cancer isn’t listed as a health risk for a particular breed, that’s no guarantee a dog won’t get cancer.

But no matter which breed you are considering, do your homework before selecting the next addition to the family. Each recognized AKC breed has a breed club, and the Web page of the breed club typically includes information on the health issues for that breed. Talk to breeders before purchasing a puppy and ask how they are working with the breed club and the AKC to address the health concerns, including cancer, of their breed. Responsible breeders understand the health issues of their breed and support research to improve the breed. Be diligent about taking your dog for regular veterinary examinations and be aware of the early signs of cancer. Follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding all necessary screening tests and, finally, support research to improve the health of your breed through clinical trials and/or the donation of blood or tumor samples from your dog.

Even though cancer is not a topic anyone really wants to think about regarding his/her favorite furry companion, all this talk is very promising for the future of dogs. Because veterinary scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of cancer in dogs, we will soon have new and better methods of prevention, detection and treatment for these diseases.

Article reposted from:
By Dr. Ann Hohenhaus

Study reveals possible biological trigger for canine bone cancer

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) have identified the biological mechanism that may give some cancer cells the ability to form tumors in dogs.

The recent study uncovered an association between the increased expression of a particular gene in tumor cells and more aggressive behavior in a form of canine bone cancer. It may also have implications for human cancers by detailing a new pathway for tumor formation.

Photo: Nik Hawkins

The findings, published online this month in the journal Veterinary and Comparative Oncology, may eventually provide oncologists with another target for therapy and improve outcomes for canine patients with the disease.

The researchers examined cell lines generated from dogs with osteosarcoma, a common bone cancer that also affects people, with the intent of uncovering why only some cells generate tumors. After the dogs underwent tumor-removal surgery at UW Veterinary Care — the SVM’s veterinary medical teaching hospital — cells from the tumors were grown in the lab.

This led to six different cancer cell lines, which were then transplanted into mice. The researchers then looked to see which lines developed tumors and which did not and studied the differences between them.

“We found several hundred genes that expressed differently between the tumor-forming and nontumor-forming cell lines,” says Timothy Stein, an assistant professor of oncology. However, one protein called frizzled-6 was present at levels eight times higher in cells that formed tumors.

In the complicated process of gene expression, the genetic information encoded within DNA is eventually converted into RNA and proteins, which are responsible for a variety of vital cellular functions. Frizzled-6 plays a key role in relaying signals from the outside to the inside of a cell, acting as a sort of receiving dock for particular types of information.

Molecular connections like this activate pathways, some of which regulate the growth, differentiation and migration of cells when working properly. But when pathways go awry, they may contribute to the development of tumors and tumor-initiating cells. The role of frizzled-6 in this process is not yet fully understood.

“It’s exciting because it’s kind of uncharted territory,” says Stein, who is also a member of the UW Carbone Cancer Center. “While we need more research to know for sure, it’s possible that frizzled-6 expression may be inhibiting a particular signaling pathway and contributing to the formation of tumor-initiating cells.”

The study is a good example of how work at UW Veterinary Care can lead to a better understanding of disease, Stein says, and it highlights how basic science can be a bridge to clinical research.

Lucas Rodrigues, lead author on the canine bone cancer study, replaces a culture medium in which cancer cells are grown.

“Now I’d like to see what this means clinically,” he says. “Does frizzled-6 serve as a marker of a more aggressive disease? Will it help us improve the accuracy of our prognoses? These are the questions we want to answer.”

Stein also hopes to continue this line of research in human cancer patients. Meanwhile, the lead author on the study, Lucas Rodrigues, is continuing the investigation in dogs.

“Now we want to make sure that frizzled-6 is truly what gives these cells the ability to form new tumors,” says Rodrigues, a postdoctoral fellow in Stein’s lab.

While frizzled-6 may be the lone culprit, it is possible that a combination of multiple genes may lead to tumor formation, says Rodrigues.

The study was also co-authored by Victoria Thompson, an associate research specialist; Katie Holmes, a 2014 graduate of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program; and Michael Newton, a professor in the Departments of Statistics and Biostatistics and Medical Informatics.

Article reposted from:
By Nik Hawkins

Do Spayed and Neutered Dogs Get Cancer More Often?

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Where I live, in America, it’s taken for granted that responsible owners spay or neuter their dogs. The population of homeless animals is still large enough that risking an unwanted litter is, to many owners, unthinkable. And spay/neuter is just what people do. But two papers were published, in 2013 and 2014, suggesting that these widely accepted surgical procedures may lead to increased long-term risk of certain kinds of cancers. These studies ignited a debate which had been smouldering for years: are there unwanted health consequences associated with altering a dog’s levels of estrogen or testosterone?

Image Credit: Rob Kleine

The 2013 paper looked at Golden Retrievers. The authors reviewed data from veterinary hospitals, comparing Goldens who were diagnosed with various diseases, those who were not, and the spay/neuter status of each group; they found a correlation between spaying or neutering and cancers such as osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell cancer. The 2014 paper used a voluntary Internet-based survey to perform a similar investigation in the Vizsla breed. They also found correlations between spay/neuter status and mast cell cancer, hemangiosarcoma, and lymphoma.

These are scary results, but I caution that studying the causes of multi-factorial diseases like cancer is incredibly challenging. Take the Golden Retriever study, a retrospective study using data from a veterinary referral hospital. This study was limited to dogs whose owners chose to bring them to a relatively expensive referral hospital. This is the kind of place where you take your pet when he has cancer and you are willing to spend a fair amount of money to help him. As a result, this hospital’s records probably provide a great source of data on companion animals living with concerned owners, particularly owners who have provided excellent medical care for much or all of the animal’s life. However, this hospital’s records are less likely to provide data on animals whose owners have provided sub-optimal care. This kind of bias in sample selection can have a significant effect on the findings drawn from the data.

The Vizsla study used an Internet-based survey instead of hospital records. Like the Golden Retriever study, this study could have found itself with a biased sample of very committed dog owners, in this case owners who engaged in dog-focused communities online and who had enough concern about the health of the breed to fill out a survey. This study additionally suffered from a lack of verified data; owners were asked to give medical details about their dogs and may have misremembered or misinterpreted a past diagnosis.

Don’t get me wrong – these were both important studies, and they did their best with the available resources. I applaud both sets of authors for putting this information out there. But the studies both have their limitations, which makes their findings difficult to trust or generalize to other populations of dogs.

Meanwhile, another 2013 study presented some other interesting results. This study drew data from multiple referral hospitals to determine the causes of death in spayed or neutered versus intact dogs – and they found that spayed and neutered dogs, on average, lived longer than intact dogs. Intact dogs were more likely to die of infectious disease or trauma, while spayed or neutered dogs were more likely to die of immune-mediated diseases or (again) cancer. In other words, while spayed or neutered dogs did get cancer, it didn’t seem to shorten their lifespans.

This study shed a new light on the cancer question. It suggested that perhaps spayed or neutered animals might be more likely to get cancer simply because they were living long enough to get it. Intact animals were more likely to die younger, perhaps simply not aging into the time of life when the risk of cancer rises.

So where does that leave us? Is there a causal link between spaying/neutering and cancer? I think the question is still wide open. What we really need is a study that follows animals forward throughout their lifetimes instead of using retrospective records or surveys to get the data – and, thanks to Morris Animal Foundation’s groundbreaking Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, we are getting just that. This study is enrolling Goldens as puppies and following their health over the course of their lives. It will be years before the study gives us answers, but it provides hope for more solid data. (Of course, it still can’t address the issue of bias, in that owners who enroll their puppies in this study could be highly responsible dog owners who provide excellent medical care!)

We can, however, do something about cancer in dogs without waiting for the results of that study. It is no coincidence that two of the studies discussed here investigated Golden Retrievers. Sixty percent of Golden Retrievers will die of cancer. That is indisputably a problem with the genetics of the breed, and other breeds suffer from similar problems. We should be attacking cancer on all fronts, and this is a front we don’t have to study first. Golden Retriever breeders are between a rock and a hard place, trying to breed for health in a gene pool which doesn’t have enough genetic diversity to support it. The solution is to bring in new blood from gene pools with much lower risk of cancer, breeding dogs who don’t look like purebred Goldens for a few generations to revitalize the breed as a whole. Genetics contribute far more to risk of cancer than whether an animal is spayed or neutered. We clearly have a strong desire as a society to reduce the incidence of cancer in Golden Retrievers and other breeds. While we’re studying risk from spaying and neutering, let’s address the genetics question that we know we can fix.

(The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.)

Article reposted from:
Jessica P. Hekman

Torres de la Riva G, Hart BL, Farver TB, et al. Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers. PLoS ONE 2013.
Zink MC, Farhoody P, Elser SE, et al. Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2014;244:309–319. [Paywalled]
Hoffman JM, Creevy KE, Promislow DEL. Reproductive Capability Is Associated with Lifespan and Cause of Death in Companion Dogs. PLoS ONE 2013.

Phase II Study of Drug In Canine Lymphoma

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Oasmia Pharmaceutical AB announced today that the company has initiated a clinical Phase II study of Doxophos Vet for the treatment of canine lymphoma.

This study will be conducted at two clinics in the United States and Sweden, respectively. It includes five dose cycles of Doxophos Vet, which contains the active ingredient in doxorubicin, a commonly used chemotherapy drug in humans.

The primary endpoint is the response rate in the treated dogs after five cycles.

CEO of Oasmia said study is an important step for veterinarians

”The continued development of this unique pharmaceutical is an important step for us, and for all dog owners,” said Julian Aleksov, CEO of Oasmia. “It is also an important step for veterinarians, since Doxophos Vet will be a treatment for dogs evaluated on dogs.”

”With Doxophos Vet, we can have a pharmaceutical which is specialized for dogs with this very common type of cancer,” said Aleksov.

Currently there is no specialized veterinary treatment for canine lymphoma.

News reposted from:
By Ross Bonander
Source: Globe News Wire
Photo by Luke Ma