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Scientists take a step forward to understand causes for canine bone cancer

Posted March 30, 2015

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine have identified mechanism that may give some cancer cells the ability to form tumours in dogs. Results of the research are thought to provide new targets for future treatments that could improve outcomes for canine patients. Furthermore, research may also have implications for human cancers by detailing a new pathway for tumour formation.

Understanding possible biological triggers for canine bone cancer can help creating new treatments and even provide new insights for osteosarcoma mechanisms in humans as well. Photo courtesy: Nik Hawkins

Understanding possible biological triggers for canine bone cancer can help creating new treatments and even provide new insights for osteosarcoma mechanisms in humans as well. Photo courtesy: Nik Hawkins

During the research they examined cell lines generated from dogs with osteosarcoma, also known as a common bone cancer that also affects people. Researchers were trying to uncover why only some cells generate tumours. Cells were taken after dogs underwent tumour-removal surgery and then were grown in the lab. This led to six different cancer cell lines, which were then transplanted into mice.

The researchers found several hundred genes that expressed differently between the tumour-forming and no tumour-forming cell lines. However, a protein called frizzled-6 was present at levels eight times higher in cells that formed tumours. This protein acts like a receiving dock for particular types of information, relaying signals from the outside to the inside of a cell.

It creates molecular connections that activate pathways, some of which regulate the growth, differentiation and migration of cells when working properly. But when they are not working properly, tumours and tumour-initiating cells may appear. However, the exact role of frizzled-6 in this process is not yet fully understood, but scientists think its expression may be inhibiting a particular signalling pathway and contributing to the formation of tumour-initiating cells.

Further research is needed, but frizzled-6 protein in the future may become new target for innovative treatment. Bettering the understanding of the role of this protein would help improve the accuracy of our prognoses, but many questions and a lot of work in the study remain to be approached. However, this work will help not only for canines, but for humans as well.

Now scientists will try to make sure that frizzled-6 is truly what gives these cells the ability to form new tumours. But from here research will split into two parts. Timothy Stein will continue this line of research in human cancer patients, while, the lead author on the study, Lucas Rodrigues, is continuing the investigation in dogs.

Osteosarcoma is basically a cancerous tumour in a bone. Typically it afflicts middle-aged large and giant breed dogs such as irish wolfhounds, greyhounds, german shepherds, rottweilers and others. But it is the most common histological form of primary bone cancer in humans as well, most prevalent in children and young adults. Finding causes that could potentially become targets for innovative treatments, would help both animals and humans.

When if ever the results of this research are going to find ways into clinical applications we will have to wait and see. But even now they provide hope that more effective treatment method can be developed once mechanisms of osteosarcoma forming are understood better. It could help both, humans and best man’s friends.


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