Cancer. We whisper the word, reluctant to give it power by speaking it aloud. Not a single disease, this all-encompassing condition affects virtually everyone on the planet. I’ve had friends stricken with cancer. And two kinds of cancer attacked and killed our beloved Bravo-Dawg.
But now there’s a new dog cancer tool available. I pray it helps other dogs so they won’t have to go through the same thing. That’d make Bravo wag.
Dog Cancer Kills Dogs
Cancer claims more dog deaths than anything else. Of the 90 million pet dogs in the United States, approximately 6 million receive this devastating diagnosis each year. With no established cancer screening guidelines for dogs, diagnosis most typically happens only after dogs show signs.
Bravo’s transient limp didn’t raise the alarm until almost too late. By the time a dog gets a diagnosis, the cancer has advanced so far that a chance for a cure or long-term control is low. A blood test able to detect early disease might have changed Bravo’s outcome.
New Hope for Dog Cancer Diagnosis
When I received the announcement about a new test for canine cancer developed by PetDx®, I eagerly awaited the information on the study that validated the test. The study collected blood samples from dogs at over 40 clinical sites across the United States, Canada, Brazil, the Netherlands, France and Hong Kong. While most veterinary studies sample fewer than 100 dogs, PetDx sampled over 1,000 dogs between 2019-2021. The OncoK9 test detects 30 different canine cancers.
The CANcer Detection in Dogs (CANDiD) study, an international, multi-center clinical study, sought to validate the performance of OncoK9 that uses next-generation sequencing of blood-derived DNA. OncoK9 mirrors the multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests for humans.
Today, the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS ONE, from the Public Library of Science, published the landmark study of this new tool. It has a sensitivity of 85.4% for three of the most aggressive canine cancers: Lymphoma, and the two cancers that stole Bravo—osteosarcoma, and hemangiosarcoma.
Dog Lovers Eager for Early Cancer Detection
As a giant breed dog, we knew Bravo’s risk increased for osteosarcoma, but you don’t want to think about that. When Bravo’s limp didn’t go away, we had him Xrayed, and found his tumor. He needed a bone biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, but even that wasn’t definitive, and it weakened his already compromised shoulder. Ultimately, he lost his leg, and began five rounds of chemotherapy. And he beat the cancer for a while! His Xrays showed clear lungs after he finished chemo. But then hemangiosarcoma took him in a week.
If we’d had the OncoK9 test, we could have detected his tumors months earlier, and perhaps had more time with him. Losing any dog to cancer hurts–when they’re not yet three years old, you feel the ache for years.
The study’s lead author Andi Flory, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology) felt inspired at the great interest and pace of enrollment in the study. “Dog owners as well as veterinarians are eager to have a non-invasive cancer detection test and were happy that their dogs could be part of this groundbreaking research,” said Dr. Flory, the Chief Medical Officer at PetDX. Veterinarians have a new tool that helps with earlier detection. Dr. Flory believes that when included as part of preventive care screening (especially for high-risk breeds like Bravo), the OncoK9 test can improve cancer outcomes and improve diagnosis.
More About OncoK9 Dog Cancer Screening
I helped take biopsies when I worked as a vet tech. Samples of tissue taken from the suspected site might involve a fine needle aspirate (the least invasive). But other samples require anesthesia. Since cancer often afflicts our oldest canine companions (Bravo at age two wasn’t typical), anesthesia adds risk to the diagnoses equation.
Instead, OncoK9 tests your dog’s blood. Billed as the first and only “liquid biopsy test,” it looks for alterations in the gene. Currently, PetDX recommends the test as an annual screening for higher-risk older dogs or those of cancer-prone breeds. It also works as an additional help to clarify diagnosis of dogs with suspicious signs of disease.
Dana Tsui, PhD, the Chief Scientific Officer at Petx and the study’s senior author notes that the last ten years have seen multiple areas of human medicine incorporate novel genomic testing using liquid biopsy in such things as cancer, obstetrics, infectious disease, and organ transplantation. Now, we’re fortunate the technology has gone to the dogs.
How to Get Your Dog Cancer Tested
Launched in 2021, many leading veterinary practices may already incorporate the OncoK9 liquid biopsy test. Ask your dog’s doctor about the option. Blood samples taken by your veterinarian get shipped to the PetDx central laboratory in San Diego, with results delivered within 10 business days. Veterinarians in the United States and Canada can get the test through PetDx and IDEXX Reference Laboratories.
Will you ask your veterinarian about screening tests? A very-good-boy named Bravo would like that, almost as much as bacon.
PetDx® – The Liquid Biopsy Company for Pets™ is a San Diego-based molecular diagnostics company dedicated to unleashing the power of genomics to improve pet health. The company’s flagship product, OncoK9®, enables veterinarians to detect cancer in dogs with a simple blood draw. As a first-in-class multi-cancer early detection (MCED) test, OncoK9 employs cutting-edge genomic analysis that leverages next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology and proprietary bioinformatics algorithms, empowering veterinarians to provide superior care to canine patients. To learn more, visit www.petdx.com and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!
Do you know if there is a resource where we can find a listing by breed which cancers could be more prevalent? I don’t know for sure what breed Izzy is but I was told she was Dachsund/Chihuahua. I think she’s got some Yorkie in her. But I know very little about those breeds and their health.
Hi Andrea, Most of the breed clubs should have that information. I include some of that information in the breed listing section of my DOG FACTS book. I don’t see cancer listed in any of those three breeds. But of course, any dog (no matter the heritage) could have cancer. I hope your Izzy never has that problem!
We lost 3 out of 4 of our Golden Retrievers to cancer. Crystal, the only one who managed to avoid cancer, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge at the age of 14 1/2. Which is rare for a Golden to live that long. Gillian was 8 years old when she crossed over from cancer around her heart. Dakota, our only male Golden, also crossed over at 8 years old from stomach cancer. Then our rescued Golden, Annabelle, had surgery before she was 2 years old. I found a lump on her chest. They cut her from shoulder to shoulder but got all the cancer.Then at 8 1/2 she had a calcified tumor (sorry this is gross) coming out of her rectum. So she too crossed the Rainbow Bridge from cancer.
I find it odd that each dog, even though it was cancer, had cancer in areas where you never would have thought of cancer being in that area.
If I were ever to get another Golden Retriever, I would definitely want him/her to get this test when they were a puppy. Like with humans, early detection would be the key to having a dog with a happier, longer life.
Oh Wanda, you had so much loss. I know that Goldens are ranked high on the cancer incidence sale, but have no idea about the types. There are too dang many kinds!
Yes Amy. Cancer and hip dysplasia are very high in the scale for Goldens. We knew that going in. The thing is that the breed is not only beautiful but, in my estimation anyway, the calmest, most loving dog. It’s for that reason why lovers of the breed keep loosing their hearts over and over again.
Oh neat, I totally missed that study. More reading material I see.
My Kleopatra passed too. It’s hard. I’m finally ready and looking. Soon you’ll get to meet Loki, the Dog of Mischief!
So sorry for your loss, Wayne. I look forward to hearing more about Loki!