Fri, 09/30/2022 - 4:24pm

Diagnosing Cancer in Dogs

From blood to urine tests, Dr. Merry Fitzgerald explores all the new diagnostics

Are there new tests for cancer in dogs?


Yes, there are several new tests available to help your veterinarian diagnose and treat your dog’s cancer more effectively.

The first new test uses tissue from the tumor itself and is called SearchLight DNA. It is a diagnostic test from Vidium Animal Health that uses DNA sequencing to identify important mutations in 120 relevant cancer genes. Genomics is the study of an organism’s genome, which is its genetic material, and how all that information is applied. All living things, from single-celled bacteria to plants, animals and humans, have a genome that is made up of DNA.

Once a patient’s tumor sample arrives at the genomics laboratory, scientists extract and sequence the DNA. They then analyze each tumor’s genome to identify its unique mutations. Vidium Insight uses its proprietary biomarker database to bring the latest diagnostic, prognostic and treatment recommendations to each case.

SearchLight DNA can be run on samples submitted as fine-needle aspirates on microscopic slides or biopsy samples that have been preserved in formalin and embedded in paraffin. Veterinarians who order SearchLight DNA will receive a complete report nine to 12 days after the tumor sample arrives at the laboratory.

As well as the biomarkers mentioned above, the information contained in each report includes a list of targeted therapeutic drugs, if the dog’s tumor is a match for an existing drug. SearchLight DNA is also able to identify therapies that are unlikely to be effective or may even result in speeding up the growth of the tumor. There is a pharmacological marker for the MDR1 mutation status with a gene summary.

SearchLight DNA can be used for any case in which the veterinarian and client want all possible information on a tumor in order to form the best treatment plan and have an honest assessment of the prognosis for recovery. This includes common canine cancers, such as mast-cell tumors, lymphomas and osteosarcomas.

This test is particularly useful for tumors with an uncertain diagnosis or tumors that have progressed despite standard-of-care treatment. It may also be helpful for cases where the owners do not want to pursue injectable chemotherapy and prefer to treat with oral medications.

SearchLight DNA is a tool that provides a new layer of comprehensive information about your dog’s cancer. Knowing a tumor’s genetic fingerprint can help in the diagnosis and prognosis of cancer. Insights into a cancer’s origin and behavior can help you make the best treatment decisions for you and your dog.


Is there a blood test for cancer?


Fundamentally, cancer is caused by abnormalities in DNA. Advanced genomic-sequencing technologies are now able to identify these abnormalities using a simple drawn blood sample. This allows cancers to be detected in dogs non-invasively.

Another new test on the market is OncoK9. It is referred to as a “liquid biopsy.” Using a large sample of whole blood, it is able to detect 30 types of cancer, including lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, soft-tissue sarcoma, mast-cell tumor, osteosarcoma, mammary-gland carcinoma, anal-sac adenocarcinoma and malignant melanoma.

Special collection kits are required for this test. The kits include two cell-free DNA collection tubes. Each tube is filled with a minimum of 7 milliliters of whole blood and stored at room temperature. The test is easily done in your veterinarian’s office. No fasting is required. The samples can be shipped overnight without requiring freezing or refrigeration.

The OncoK9 uses next-generation DNA sequencing technology and is reported to be able to detect 30 distinct cancer types with high detection rates. Studies show a low false-positive rate. The test is also able to predict certain types of cancers of the blood.

Cancer is a devastating diagnosis for humans and animals. PetDx is a company committed to helping pet owners ease the burdens of a positive test result. They have created the PetDx Advanced Cancer Evaluation Support (ACES) Program for owners who have had a pet test positive with the OncoK9 test.

All dogs with a Cancer Signal Detected OncoK9 test result where OnkoK9 was used for cancer screening or as an aid in diagnosis and do not yet have a confirmed cancer diagnosis are eligible. For those patients, PetDx will pay up to $1,000 toward the cost of the dog’s additional evaluation and diagnostic workup. Additional testing should be performed to obtain a conclusive tissue diagnosis, where possible, or staging of the disease.

Following a Cancer Signal Detected report, veterinarians or pet owners can visit to apply for the program.


Is there a urine test for bladder and prostate cancer?


Yes, there is. The CADET BRAF evaluates urine samples from dogs for the presence of cells containing a mutation for canine bladder and prostate cancer. The most common types of bladder and prostate cancer are transitional cell carcinoma and urothelial carcinoma (TCC/UC).

The CADET BRAF is a highly sensitive test designed to monitor the b-raf mutation in TCC/UC cases for therapeutic response and possible relapse during the course of their treatment. This test can be used for both the rapid, non-invasive assessment of dogs showing clinical signs consistent with TCC/UC and to monitor the progress of confirmed cases undergoing treatment.

CADET BRAF evaluates free-catch urine samples from dogs for the presence of cells harboring the BRAF mutation or specific copy-number variations associated with TCC/UC. The tests identify 95 percent of TCC/UC cases. The extremely low limit of detection of 10 mutation-bearing cells in a urine sample allows early diagnosis of a developing TCC/UC, often several months before any advanced clinical signs associated with the cancer become evident.

The indications for using a CADET BRAF test are dogs that have blood in their urine, strain to urinate, are incontinent, leak urine, and have shown evidence of a mass in the bladder with radiographs or ultrasound. The test can be used when a bladder mass has been confirmed to be TCC/UC by doing a fine-needle aspirate from the tumor.

Another use of the CADET BRAF test is during chemotherapy to monitor treatment success by decreased levels of BRAF mutation detection, or to monitor cancer relapse by recurrence of BRAF mutation tumor-bearing cells. Screening of high-risk breeds such as terriers, Shetland and Australian sheepdogs, cattle dogs, Beagles and Border Collies that are six years of age and older can be helpful to detect a problem early before the disease is advanced.

The CADET BRAF test can be used for early diagnosis of TCC/UA in cases with recurring, complicated or antibiotic-resistant urinary-tract infections that do not show evidence of a mass in the bladder. Some bladder cancers invade the wall of the bladder and are not visible as a mass.

Cancer is a scary diagnosis for everyone, including our pets. These cutting-edge tests offer new ways to simplify diagnosing cancers in the hope of achieving better health outcomes for our dogs.



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