Collaborative Brain Tumor Research for Dogs

Author: Sharon M. Albright, DVM, CCRT

Primary brain tumors, those originating within the brain tissue, occur in 2-4% of dogs based on necropsy (animal autopsy) studies. This is likely an underestimation, since many canine brain tumors remain undiagnosed due to financial constraints that preclude the advanced diagnostics required for brain lesions and owner reluctance to allow necropsy examination. Studies report that half of canine brain tumors are meningiomas, which originate from the membranes that cover the brain, and 30-40% are gliomas, which originate from the supportive cells of the brain. Clinical signs for all brain tumors can include seizures, abnormal behavior, unsteady gait, abnormal vision, and neck pain. Surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy are the available treatment options, but the prognosis remains poor for affected dogs. Since the size and location of some brain tumors prevent surgical excision and because some dogs experience tumor re-growth after treatment, new and better treatment options are needed.

Joyce Baker Brown with Lindi and Palmer

Long-time Boxer lover, Joyce Baker Brown, understands the need for improved brain tumor treatment options all too well. She has enjoyed the company of Boxers since the day she was born. Joyce has shown her dogs in conformation, placed some dogs at stud, and participated in Boxer rescue. Unfortunately, some of her dogs have been affected by cancer, including tumors that metastasize to the brain and primary brain tumors such as meningioma.

To support advances in canine brain tumor treatments, the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) was one of the original collaborators in the Comparative Brain Tumor Consortium (CBTC). This group of veterinarians, physicians, and researchers, united by their interest and expertise in neuro-oncology, was created in 2015 by the National Cancer Institute to improve human brain tumor drug development by using more predictive and accurate pre-clinical models - such as dogs with naturally occurring cancer. Dogs get many of the same spontaneous cancers as humans, and their genome is similar to that of humans. They are also our closet companions and share our environments, often including food and water. Therefore, a collaborative and comparative medicine approach, one that examines the similarities and differences in biology among dogs and humans, has the potential to improve outcomes for both species.

As an active supporter of the American Boxer Charitable Foundation, Joyce learned about the AKC Canine Health Foundation and its oncology research.

“CHF-funded research has already helped Boxer breeders reduce the incidence of sub-aortic stenosis and degenerative myelopathy in our breed,” Ms. Brown states, “but their cancer research has the greatest potential to improve the lives of dogs and humans.”

After watching some of her own dogs deteriorate rapidly following the diagnosis of brain cancer and losing several human friends to the disease, Joyce knows that comparative oncology research, like that conducted through the Comparative Brain Tumor Consortium, has great potential to positively impact society.  “CHF has staying power,” Joyce tells others interested in supporting canine health research. “Their grant management processes ensure that high quality studies are completed to benefit canine health and One Health.” CHF is now in its 25th year as a 501c3 nonprofit funding organization for canine health research.

Indeed, CHF’s collaborative efforts within the Comparative Brain Tumor Consortium aim to improve outcomes for canine and human brain tumor patients. Canine glioma and meningioma tumor classification systems are being updated and standardized with human systems. Studies are ongoing to search for new treatment targets and several clinical trials are underway providing cutting edge treatments and hope for dogs and people affected by brain tumors. CHF and its donors remain committed to finding and funding the best scientific studies, such as those conducted within the CBTC, so that all dogs, and their people, can live longer, healthier lives.

CHF-funded CBTC studies:
Grant 02663: Comparative Brain Tumor Consortium (CBTC) Meningioma Pathology Board
Principal Investigators: Amy LeBlanc, DVM, Andrew Miller, DVM and Molly Church, MS, VMD, PhD; National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute/Center for Cancer Research/Comparative Oncology Program, Cornell University, and University of Pennsylvania

Grant 02321: Clinical Trial of Procaspase-3 Activator (PAC-1) in Combination with Hydroxyurea for Treatment of Canine Meningioma
Principal Investigator: Timothy M. Fan, DVM, PhD; University of Illinois

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