It may have happened to you, as it happened to some of us here at NanoString®: the furry, four-legged trouble-making family member you just can’t stay mad at is sick, and the vet doesn’t know what is happening. Tests for some curable infections come back negative, but a biopsy comes back positive for cancer. We start frantically looking for answers, scouring the internet. Those of us with a biology background search PubMed hoping to find a possible treatment that is not out there yet: today’s standard of care for canine cancers still relies on surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, with results similar to humans: no long-term remission and certainly no cure.
But this may change sooner than we think.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over ten years old and occurs in 50% of older dogs. One of every four will die from it. For decades, there was virtually no canine cancer research. Vets had very little to offer to save our furry family members.
Canine oncology research became popular in the mid-20th century when pets became part of the family. Veterinary clinics were then pushed to increase their research in clinical diagnosis and treatment for pets. It was only in the 1960s that the first clinic for veterinary oncology was born in Pennsylvania, while Colorado saw the first veterinary radiation oncology clinic around the same period. It is now recognized that dogs share our environment, food, and water, hence develop the same cancers as humans, with a similar presentation, clinical pathology, and response to treatment. We also know there are similarities in the genetics that result in these malignancies in both species. Studies in pets can provide corroborating evidence to links between cancer development and living environment (1). As if dogs’ existence itself wasn’t already a gift to humankind, it turns out that man’s best friend can also become a powerful resource to understand cancer in humans.
The growing interest in canine oncology led recently to a substantial increase in the number of canine clinical trials aimed to explore cancer treatment beyond chemotherapy and radiation. In 2017, the NIH awarded 11.5 million in grants to veterinary schools to study immunotherapy in pet dogs’ cancers (2). Furthermore, more dog owners are turning to canine oncologists to treat their pets, creating an opportunity to learn from our dogs as we extend their lifespans.
At NanoString, we are about family; the number of legs or other attributes is not a family qualifier, only love is. When the news that our scientists started working on a new panel aimed to facilitate Immuno-oncology research on our furry babies – with an eye to the health of biped parents as well – we were thrilled!
In summer 2020, we made available a new gene expression oncology panel created through a collaboration between NanoString and a consortium of canine researchers from multiple prestigious institutes, including the University of Alabama, the University of California- Davis, Colorado State University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Pennsylvania, Tufts, and Freie University, Berlin.
The assembled group of experts includes critical members of the Cancer Moonshot Consortium, which aims to promote the development of cancer immunotherapies for several common human cancers — glioma, osteosarcoma, melanoma, and lymphoma, and foster a collaborative immunotherapy network for comparative oncology.
The nCounter® Canine IO panel is designed to be the ultimate tool for comparative oncology in canines. The panel mirrors our human Immune Oncology panels’ content, but it was built with canine biology and genetics in mind.
The panel profiles 800 genes across 47 annotated pathways involved in canine response to IO treatments, including overlapping content with the human PanCancer Immune Profiling and PanCancer IO 360 panels for comparative studies. The sensitivity, specificity, and reliability of the results are guaranteed by the easy-to-use nCounter system, which provides data in 24 hours with less than 30 minutes hands-on time and simple data analysis.
We at NanoString are exceptionally proud of this new panel. We look forward to the discoveries that will come with this tool and the benefits for both man and his best friend.
FOR RESEARCH USE ONLY. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.