New Research Could Help Dogs with Cancer Get Better Treatment

This life-saving work is being done at the only UK charity with a dedicated research program for man's best friend


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Now, research conducted at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) – the UK charity in collaboration with the University of Liverpool – offers new hope for dogs with cutaneous mast cell tumors.

Cancer is the biggest killer of dogs over the age of 10 and aggressive forms of cutaneous tumors, the most common form of skin cancer in dogs, frequently recur or spread and can cause death in less than a year. That's why this research may be able to provide better cancer treatment and potentially save the lives of our furry family members.

At this time, veterinarians do not have a test that can predict if the tumor will spread and while chemotherapy can slow the tumors growth there is no treatment that will stop them from spreading according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation.

The AHT research, led by Dr Mike Starkey, successfully identified genetic changes in cutaneous mast cell tumors that are linked to cancer spread. This study published their findings in the scientific journal PLoS One in December 2018. The team believes that it may be possible to develop to develop a noninvasive prognostic test that can tell vets if the tumor is likely to spread and if chemotherapy is appropriate.

The findings of the research study are the result of many years work and are important because so many dogs are affected by cutaneous mast cell tumors,” said Dr Mike Starkey in a news release from AHT. “Cancer affects 1 in 4 dogs and research is the only way to fight cancer. I’m hugely grateful to everyone who has supported my team and this research to-date, and I believe this is a really exciting time as we can begin to see how our work can improve the outcome for dogs with cancer."

AHT is the only charity in the UK with a dedicated canine cancer research group. The research was possible due to extensive funding from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which funded the GeneAtlas System which enabled the team to analyze the genetic blueprints of the mast cell tumors at the Animal Health Trust and by Zoe’s Journey UK.

"The data collected during this research has enabled the analysis of tumor genetics and improved our understanding of canine cancer. The development of accurate tests will be an exciting development for the future,” said Steve Dean, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.

The next steps are to validate the accuracy of the results in a larger study. To do so, AHT will have to collect 100 mast cell tumor biopsies from dogs along with a detailed clinical history. According to AHT, the validation study could potentially enable a reduction in the number of genes that need to be measured to accurately predict if a tumor will spread or not.

The researchers hope that these tests can be completed in two years and that work to develop a prognostic test can start in 2021. Diagnosing and treating cancer quickly will give our beloved pets a new lease on life.

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