Canine Cancer Updates Presented at National Parent Club Canine Health Conference


Cancer, our best friends’ leading cause of death, is something you never want to hear connected to your dog.   However, there is good news on the cancer front and the AKC Canine Health Foundation is making sure that news keeps getting better.  To date CHF has provided over $7.6 million for more than 144 grants.

Canine cancers develop naturally. Therefore, dogs can serve as real-world cancer research subjects, unlike the laboratory mice commonly used in cancer research which usually develop cancer by deliberate human intervention.  This makes them better models for many cancers.  This has attracted some top-flight cancer researchers to canine cancer, to the great benefit to our dogs and in some cases to us humans, as well. Another advantage to studying cancer in dogs is that cancer genes are far easier to identify in purebred dogs than in people.    

Cancer isn’t one disease it is many, all typified by abnormal and malignant cell growth.  Research in a broad area like cancer requires a variety of quality resources.   CHF-funded cancer researchers and Asa Mays Excellence in Canine Health Research Award winners Jaime Modiano VMD PhD (University of Minnesota,) Matthew Breen PhD (North Carolina State University,) and other colleagues have formed the Canine Comparative Oncology and Genomics Consortium, a canine cancer tissue bank that researchers around the world can access for research samples.  Dr. Breen has also put together what he terms a “genomics toolbox” that more efficiently identifies changes in genes and chromosome arrangements in cancer tissue.  Another CHF-funded researcher, Nicola Mason BVetmed PhD (University of Pennsylvania,) has developed libraries of canine antibody fragments that can be screened to select antibody fragments to be used as targeted therapies in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

CHF-funded researchers attending the 2011 National Parent Club Canine Health Conference shared the encouraging progress they have made in their studies of several common canine cancers:

Lymphoma – This cancer of the lymphatic tissue is the most commonly seen form in dogs.  Dr. Breen has evaluated genome-wide DNA copy number changes in canine and human B-cell lymphoma. While human B-cell lymphoma has many copy number changes, the canine disease has far fewer.  By focusing on those that are common to both species, Dr. Breen is aiming to accelerate the process of gene discovery. Aberrations shared between human and dog are those containing genes that are most likely to be the significant drivers in this cancer. Simultaneously he has identified that some of these copy number aberrations correlate significantly with duration of first remission in canine patients treated with chemotherapy.  Dr. Breen is now evaluating the same aberrations in human patients to see whether there is any correlation with treatment response.       

Hemangiosarcoma – This intractable and uniformly fatal disease, which Dr. Modiano described as the “tumor from hell,” arises in the blood vessels.  Dr. Mason has used her antibody library to develop a targeted monoclonal antibody treatment that inhibits a potent growth factor and also inhibits growth of hemangiosarcoma tumor cells.  Her next step is to try the antibody in a mouse tumor model and, if it works there, in a clinical trial for dogs with hemangiosarcoma. The same technology is also being used to develop new therapies for lymphoma and osteosarcoma.

Osteosarcoma – The most frequently seen type bone cancer in dogs more common in large breeds.  Dr. Modiano has identified unique genetic signatures in two osteosarcoma subtypes which can be used to predict outcome and can guide treatment decisions for individual patients.

Transitional Cell Carcinoma – This cancer of the bladder and other urinary system tissues is most frequently seen in Scottish and West Highland White terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Dachshunds.  Rondo Middleton PhD (Nestlé Purina Petcare,) in collaboration with Dr. Inpanbutr (Ohio State University,) studied the effect of Vitamin D on this cancer. They found that calcitriol, a form of Vitamin D, and similar substances turn down the activity of genes that protect cells from further damage and mutations.  This finding may lead to treatments and even special feeds for dogs with this and other cancers.  

CHF is pleased with the encouraging progress and accomplishments of its cancer grant recipients and is committed to the continued support of these and other canine cancer researchers.  Their efforts are leading to better diagnosis and improved cancer treatments for our dogs.

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