TGen develops highly accurate test for dog cancer

Phoenix-based TGen researchers have helped develop a highly accurate test to diagnose one of the most common and aggressive types of cancer in dogs, lymphoma.

The test may assist veterinarians in the better diagnosis and treatment of dogs and could help

understand cancer in humans, too, said researchers and officials from Phoenix-based nonprofit research firm, TGen, and national veterinary hospital chain, Ethos Veterinary Health, of Massachusetts, that joined to develop the test.   

Many cancer diagnostic tools for canines are already on the market, but accuracy measures have been inconsistent. This test could help change that, researchers said.

The test – called ePARR – is more than 90 percent accurate across sample types and diagnostic settings, said Dr. Will Hendricks, an Assistant Professor in TGen’s Integrated Cancer Genomics Division and one of the authors of the study that was published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Next stop: veterinarians and pet owners

The study was funded by non-profit Ethos Discovery, which is evaluating options to make the test available to veterinarians and pet owners.

Almost half of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Approximately 1 in 4 dogs will, at some stage in their life, develop neoplasia, abnormal tissue or cell growth.

Rapid, accurate testing is critical for dogs’ treatment and survival and would benefit the pet therapeutic market, which is expected to surpass $359.4 million in 2025, according to Global Market Insights, Inc. Most of the market – more than 80 percent – is in North America.

Setting the gold standard for testing

The study was one of the most rigorous to date, in part due to the number of dogs involved.

For the study, TGen physicians and scientists studied the DNA of over 180 pet dogs with naturally occurring cancers using different samples including cell pellets, air dried aspirates and paraffin embedded tissues.

While the method for testing cancer is not new, the analysis used “well exceeds what has been done” in previous studies, said Chand Khanna, chief science officer of Ethos Veterinary Health, and a co-author of the study.

“What’s new is that doctors can offer (tests) with a greater confidence in the performance of the assay than was possible before,” Khanna said.

Animal diagnostic tests could be even more accurate if testing facilities adopted more uniform techniques, established uniform high performance standards, and made their results more readily available to the general research community, said TGen Senior Research Associate Shukmei Wong.

Wong hopes the study “will inspire more reporting of assay methods and metrics and help drive the creation of reference standards and more consistent protocols in diagnostics in veterinary medicine.”

TGen, which is affiliated with City of Hope research and treatment centers, works to unravel the genetic components of diseases and find treatments and cures using a person’s – or animal’s – own cells. Their research is bringing breakthroughs that are making it possible to treat diseases like cancer without invasive and harsh treatments like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Victoria Harker

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