New research on canine bone cancer from the University of Wisconsin may end up helping both canines and humans. Published online in the February edition of Veterinary and Comparative Oncology, the study discussed the discovery of a biological mechanism that helps turn cells into cancerous tumors.
The researchers studied the genes in osteosarcoma tumors that were removed from dogs and grown in the lab and then in mice. After comparing a variety of cell lines between tumor-forming and nontumor-forming cells, the scientists were able to narrow down a single protein that was present at higher levels in cancerous tumors: frizzled-6.
This protein may help shed light on how bone cancer grows and ultimately lead to new methods for diagnosing and treating bone cancer for both dogs and humans.
“It’s exciting because it’s kind of uncharted territory,” Timothy Stein, an assistant professor of oncology at the university, explained in a statement. “While we need more research to know for sure, it’s possible that frizzled-6 expression may be inhibiting a particular signaling pathway and contributing to the formation of tumor-initiating cells.”
There’s still plenty of research to be done before scientists can use frizzled-6 to treat bone cancer, but this research is a promising first step.
Facing canine cancer with your pooch
The most common form of bone cancer in pooches is osteosarcoma. While the researchers are looking into what causes this devastating disease, there isn’t any cure for canine cancer. Currently, the best defense is knowing as much as you can, catching it early, and getting your dog the treatment they need to beat bone cancer and live a fulfilling life.
Bone cancers most often occur in your dog’s front legs, ankles, hips, shoulders or abdomen. There are benign tumors as well as several forms of malignant cancerous growths that can affect your pooch. Benign growths like osteomas and osteochondromas may cause symptoms in your dog but don’t pose nearly the same risks as a cancerous tumor.
Some of the biggest symptoms for bone cancer are lameness, weakness, or joint injuries. Because they often affect the legs, your pooch will likely have trouble walking. The area where the tumor is can be tender to the touch or the bone in the region may have broken. Changes in behavior, appetite, and attitude may also signal bone cancer. If you’ve noticed your dog’s joint suddenly seems to be hurting them, talk to your veterinarian.
If you spot any of these symptoms, take your dog to the vet. There, they’ll be able to test for cancer and rule out other conditions that may cause the issue. Even if it isn’t bone cancer, the joint issue may be fixed with Rimadyl or other joint-relief medication.
X-rays and blood tests can help determine if your dog has cancer or another condition. Sometimes similar symptoms are caused by bone infections or fugal diseases. If the vet suspects cancer to be the cause, they may request a biopsy where they take a piece of the tumor to see if it’s cancerous. Often, cancer can be diagnosed by the X-rays alone in dogs, however.
Once it’s determined that your dog has cancer, your veterinarian will lay out a few treatment options. One of the most common treatments is to amputate the affected limb. Surgeries that don’t amputate the limb, radiation, and chemotherapy are also options. Amputations are particularly effective, however.
The National Canine Cancer Foundation explained that dogs between the ages of 7 and 10 have the best survival rates of all pooches with bone cancer.
Use your PetPlus membership to save on cancer or pain medication that your pooch may need.