New research could improve outcomes for dogs with common cancer
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Research conducted by a team of scientists and vets at a Suffolk animal trust could help dogs with a common skin cancer get better treatment.
Researchers at the Animal Health Trust, based in Kentford, near Newmarket, working in collaboration with the University of Liverpool, have successfully identified genetic changes in a common form of skin cancer that are linked to tumour spread.
Cutaneous mast cell tumours are the most common form of skin cancer in dogs and aggressive forms of these tumours often recur, or spread to local lymph nodes, the liver and/or spleen and can cause death within a year.
Currently, vets do not have a test that will accurately predict if a dog’s cutaneous mast cell tumour will spread or not.
Chemotherapy is used to slow mast cell tumour spread, but there is no treatment that can stop the tumours from spreading and affected dogs from dying prematurely.
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The new research, led by Dr Mike Starkey, may eventually be used by vets to better determine how best to treat dogs with mast cell tumours, and may also promote the development of new treatments.
Leading on from the discovery, scientists hope it will be possible to develop a non-invasive prognostic test for the first time which will accurately tell vets if a cutaneous mast cell tumour is likely to spread, and therefore if chemotherapy is appropriate.
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The availability of such a test would help to ensure that dogs affected by this type of cancer receive the right treatment, and would reduce the number of dogs who unnecessarily receive treatment that is not beneficial.
The results of the research could also promote the trials of new anti-tumour spread drugs in affected dogs.
Dr Starkey, of the Animal Health Trust, said: “The findings of the research study is the result of many years work and are important because so many dogs are affected by cutaneous mast cell tumours.
“Cancer affects one in four 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.
“The Animal Health Trust is the only charity with a dedicated canine cancer research group in the UK and not many local people know we are based right here in Suffolk.
“Anything we learn about cancer in dogs may help understanding of the corresponding cancer in humans.”
The research was made possible due to extensive charitable funding, most notably from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which funded the ‘GeneAtlas System’ allowing the team to analyse the genetic blueprints of the mast cell tumours at the Animal Health Trust.
The research team was also supported by Zoe’s Journey UK.
Steve Dean, chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, said: “Discovering that your dog has been diagnosed with cancer is an extremely emotional time in any dog owner’s life, and our support for cancer research at the Animal Health Trust is vital in helping to make that journey a bit easier for dog owners in the future.”
To read the paper published in PLOS ONE on December 19, click here.