The Gift of Time: Introducing a Ground-Breaking New Test For Canine Bladder Cancer
We live in amazing times. It seems like just yesterday that we awoke to the rising threat of bladder cancer [also known as transitional cell carcinoma (TCC)/urothelial carcinoma (UC)] in our dogs, with new cases being diagnosed far too frequently. As some breeders are aware, there are breeds that have a higher than average risk of developing TCC/UC: American Eskimo Dog, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Beagle, Bichon Frise, Border Collie, Parson Russell Terrier, Lhasa Apso, Rat Terrier, Russell Terrier, Scottish Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, West Highland White Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier. These breeds combined account for more than a third of all diagnosed TCC/UC cases in purebred dogs.
Over the past 15-to-20 years, many dedicated researchers have followed a variety of paths leading to better understanding of TCC/UC, better diagnostic protocols, and new therapeutic options. With the sequencing of the canine genome, biomedical research has rocketed forward. And here we are today in 2016, excited to announce a new urine-based test that will profoundly change the approach to early diagnosis of TCC/UC in dogs.
In his laboratory at N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Matthew Breen, PhD, CBiol, FRSB, professor of genomics and the Oscar J. Fletcher Distinguished Professor of Comparative Oncology Genetics, has been a busy man. Adding to a long list of successful research projects and published works, Breen has developed a new free-catch urine test that truly welcomes us into a new age.
But first, a bit of background: In the complex and miraculous machinery of all cells, there are many processes at work. And deep in this machinery is an important cog, a protein called BRAF. Part of a whole family of proteins called RAF, the BRAF protein is an essential component that regulates the activity of normal, healthy cells. But when there is a mutation in this BRAF protein, the cell machinery is thrown off course. The mutated protein results in activation of a detrimental pathway that can cause transformation of normal cells into cancerous ones.
The BRAF mutation was identified as early as 2002 in human cancers including melanoma, leading to new monitoring procedures and targeted therapies for people diagnosed with these cancers. But just within the past year, a similar BRAF mutation was identified in the cells from dogs with bladder cancer and prostate cancer. Two independent research centers, Breen’s laboratory at N.C. State and Dr. Elaine Ostrander’s lab at the National Institutes of Health, zeroed in on this mutation. Amazingly, once again, canine and human cancer patients are helped by one another, their cancers serving as models across the species.
As a result of his discovery, Breen’s team developed the CADET SM (CAncer DETection) BRAF Mutation Detection Assay, a free-catch urine test so sensitive that it can detect the BRAF mutation in as few as 10 TCC/UC cells from the urine of a dog. The test is being used by veterinarians to identify the presence of TCC/UC in dogs once they have started to show symptoms associated with the cancer, as well as to monitor the impact of treatment in cases that test positive for the mutation. Since the test has a forensic level of detection, it can also be used to reveal the presence of tumor cells up to four months (and possibly longer) before any clinical signs become evident.
Many of us breeders are all too familiar with the typical course of TCC/UC. First the owner notices unusual symptoms in her dog, such as blood in the urine, more accidents in the house, and the dog taking a longer time to urinate. The veterinarian will often prescribe a course of antibiotics. For a few weeks the dog seems to be fine. But inevitably the symptoms return, and another course of antibiotics is prescribed. And again, the symptoms return. Meanwhile, if there is a tumor forming in the dog’s bladder, it is continuing to grow and spread within the bladder and potentially beyond. When the cancer is finally diagnosed, the disease is often quite advanced and may be less responsive to treatment. We cannot afford the luxury of waiting around to see if another course of antibiotics might work.
The miracle of Dr. Breen’s CADETSM BRAF test is that it can detect the presence of the mutation in remarkably few cells shed in urine, long before there are any symptoms of TCC/UC, before blood is noticed in urine, before the straining to urinate and frequency of urination, and even in some cases, before an abnormality can be seen on ultrasound. In short, this new CADETSM test offers the gift of time.
In addition, a diagnostic and monitoring version of the test is available directly from Sentinel Biomedical. For these products the results are returned with two to three business days of receipt of the urine sample.
Along with the test kit is a questionnaire that owners may complete and submit with each sample. The information provided in the questionnaire is being used as part of a nationwide research study aimed at finding the cause of TCC/UC and determining any link between genetic and environmental factors. All test participants that complete the questionnaire will be automatically included on updates on the research findings.
For more information on this research and the CADETSM BRAF Mutation Detection assay for canine TCC/UC, click here.