Canine Hemangiosarcoma: How Much Do We Really Know and When Will We Find a Cure? 

Speaker: Jaime F. Modiano, VMD, PhD University of Minnesota

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2013 Health Conference Report
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Canine Hemangiosarcoma: How Much Do We Really Know and When Will We Find a Cure?  
The Cytogenomic Landscape of Canine Cancer  

Dr. Modiano’s Animal Cancer Care and Research Program has a fully integrated partnership with the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Masonic Cancer Center. Fifty faculty investigators from the from the College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Medicine, College of Pharmacy and School of Public Health are working on dozens of collaborative projects.

Hemangiosarcoma tumors develop slowly and painlessly. It is usually detected when it creates a medical emergency. It often causes sudden death, or the disease is too far advanced when discovered to implement effective treatment. There may only be a hint of the presence of the disease, and progression, if any, is remitting episodes of lethargy and paleness due to anemia caused by bleeding episodes.

Significance and Impact

Our work in canine hemangiosarcoma (HS) is changing paradigms for this disease. [Paradigm: a distinct concept or thought pattern.] Strategic efforts led by our collaborator Dr. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, and together with Dr. Matthew Breen have led to the discovery of heritable traits that account for risk. Collectively, our groups have also defined molecular pathways that contribute to disease progression. In parallel, ongoing work with Dr. Erin Dickerson and Dr. Daniel Vallera, respectively, has defined the cellular origin of this disease and provided the foundation for a clinical trial that is enrolling dogs with hemangiosarcoma at the University of Minnesota. The improved understanding of genetics and pathobiology of HS resulting from these efforts will help us achieve the first meaningful gains in prevention, control, and treatment for this disease in 30 years. 

The Problem

Hemangiosarcoma is a common and lethal cancer of dogs. Some breeds have higher risk to develop HS, but the disease can occur in any dog of any age. Not much has changed since the disease was first described in the 1960s. The most significant therapeutic gains were the introduction of surgery in the 1970s and the introduction of chemotherapy in the 1980s. Since then, most practical gains have been incremental, improving the safety and tolerability of chemotherapy. 

The cause of the disease is unknown. Until recently, it was generally accepted that the tumors arise from endothelial (blood vessel lining) cells. We first proposed that this tumor might originate from bone marrow derived cells in 2006. Since then, we have expanded this line of investigation to document that the tumor cells can differentiate along various lineages, including myeloid (white blood cells), adipose (fat cells), and vascular (blood vessel forming cells). Our ongoing work seeks to define the interactions between the tumor cells and their microenvironment that determine which lineage predominates, and that provide a safe niche for tumor growth and progression. We believe that disrupting this niche will delay or prevent metastatic spread, and more important, protect tumor sites from hemorrhage, which is the most common lethal event in this disease. 

The Solution

We are implementing a comprehensive approach to beat canine hemangiosarcoma. This includes development of new therapies to help dogs that develop the disease today, as well as new methods for prevention and control that will reduce the number of dogs that will develop HS in the future. A better understanding of the disease has allowed us to make significant gains on both fronts of the battle against this aggressive tumor. Our progress has not gone unnoticed, allowing us to establish new collaborations that will similarly help human patients with angiosarcoma.  

To help our research, you can spread the word about our efforts, contribute samples, and support agencies such as CHF that fund our work. This will sustain our capabilities to drive innovation, to stay at the forefront of cancer prevention and treatment, and to recruit new talented faculty and students that will bring and implement new ideas. We are grateful for, and humbled by the trust that the AKC Parent Clubs have placed in us and we will continue to do our best to maintain and expand both.    

How to send blood and tissue to the Modiano Lab

Dr. Modiano is well-known to the PWD community and has worked closely with us for years. In July of 2007, Dr. Modiano joined the College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Medicine, and Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, where he continues his research program as Alvin and June Perlman Endowed Professor of Oncology and Comparative Medicine and Director of the Animal Cancer Care and Research Program. His research program has had uninterrupted support from federal and private sources for 19 years, leading to co-authorship of more than 300 scientific papers, abstracts, presentations, and book chapters focused on various aspects of immunology, cancer biology and genetics, and therapeutic innovations for cancer.



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