Bernard Seguin, D.V.M.
Being a veterinary surgical oncologist, early in my career I tackled some of the problems related to preserving the function of the limb while eradicating the osteosarcoma in the limb, a surgical procedure commonly known as limb sparing. I met many incredible dogs and their “just as incredible” families. I met just as many outstanding dogs and their families who went through an amputation. With rare exceptions, all of these dogs eventually succumbed of their metastatic disease. It was, and still is, very hard to see these dogs die of metastatic disease and to see their family grieve. One day ironically, our own personal family dog, George, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. My wife, who is also a veterinarian, and I were now on the other side of the table: We were now the owners receiving the bad news but knowing too well what the outcome will be. As expected, 13 months after his amputation and standard of care chemotherapy, George died from metastatic disease. Our son, who was 4 years-old at the time, was devastated. George had been around all of his life and they were best buddies.
Charles Keller, M.D.
see the news stories about this project at http://www.9news.com/story/local/2014/01/01/6978501/?storyid=6978501 and http://www.kgw.com/news/Cancer-research-for-dogs-could-help-children-248458851.html
A model for delivery of personalized medicine using canine osteosarcoma
Osteosarcoma is the most common malignant bone tumor, with over 600 human patients diagnosed every year - mostly children, adolescents and young adults. While osteosarcoma accounts for only 2% of all pediatric cancers, it is responsible for nearly 10% of all pediatric cancer deaths, a statistic that has remained unchanged for 30 years. Osteosarcoma is also the most common bone tumor in dogs. Over 95% of dogs with osteosarcoma die of their disease, a statistic that has also remained unchanged over the past 25 years. Dogs have been shown to be an excellent model to study this disease because osteosarcoma shares many similarities in both dogs and humans. Because dogs are more frequently afflicted with osteosarcoma and because the disease progresses at a faster rate in canines, studies done in dogs can lead to a faster gain of knowledge about this disease.
Data in both humans and dogs demonstrate that one treatment regimen does not fit all. This tumor is very heterogeneous, and it makes sense that the treatment needs to be tailored to the molecular signature of the individual tumors. The goal of our project is to determine if our approach to identify which is the best treatment for each individual patient is effective at prolonging their survival and hopefully cure them. Our approach was developed to also predict which combination of drugs targeting these tumors at the molecular level will be best for each patient. We propose to test our approach in pet dogs that have developed osteosarcoma so we can collect the data faster than would be possible in children.
We anticipate that dogs with osteosarcoma treated in an individualized way will live significantly longer and this will provide the evidence that it can be applied in children, too.
Although this will be tested in dogs with osteosarcoma, this approach has the potential to be extended to many other types of sarcomas and other solid tumors in both people and pets. As an important note, dogs spontaneously develop tumors like humans do, seemingly without any specific cause. For our studies, we use dogs that have already developed osteosarcoma. We never induce osteosarcoma in a dog. We love our own family dogs, as well as these patient dogs, and only want to ensure that each dog survives his or her cancer.
Why is this important?
Currently, there are a limited number of treatments available to a dog afflicted by osteosarcoma. Additionally, studies have failed to show that any of them are better than the others. If successful, our study could revolutionize the way dogs, and consequently children, are treated for this disease. For one, the treatment for dogs and children would be tailored to the individual. Second, the treatments would make use of novel targeted drugs that are not currently used as the standard of care for this disease.
Who will benefit?
The patient populations that will directly benefit from this research are dogs and children affected by osteosarcoma. Ultimately, the results of this research may open the doors to treat other types of sarcomas and solid tumors. As such, pets and people with other types of cancer may benefit from this approach to deliver personalized medicine.