The main goal of this project was to develop a diagnostic test that can be used to detect hemangiosarcoma cells in blood samples from dogs. The rationale for the test is based on the fact that, as a tumor of cells that line blood vessels, hemangiosarcoma tumor cells are in intimate contact with blood and are likely to shed cells into the circulation. We can therefore use the identification of those cells to confirm a possible diagnosis in dogs that have clinical signs, and eventually to detect the disease before it becomes clinically evident (early stages when it may be more amenable to treatment) as well as to follow response to therapy (monitor remissions). Less than 50% of dogs treated with standard of care for this tumor (surgery and intensive chemotherapy) survive more than six months. Many dogs die from severe internal bleeding before there is an opportunity to institute treatment.
We have further refined the system to verify we can detect malignant endothelial cells in dog blood when they represent as few as 0.01% of the nucleated cells. We are continuing to work out technical details, including cell enrichment methods, use of “positive” vs. “negative” selection, and the most reliable and reproducible format to offer the test in the field (that is, to “real” patients). The test will be licensed by Idexx Laboratories, Inc., which has now provided support for completion of the development process, including clearing regulatory hurdles and providing nationwide availability. We are much closer to a real product, and the support from the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America and the Portuguese Water Dog Foundation, Inc. allowed us to make significant progress and secure more stable funding for development from Idexx. We are indebted to the Club and the Foundation for their generosity and vision to make this happen. We truly feel this test will make a quantitative improvement in the quality of life for our dogs, by improving our ability to diagnose the disease and monitor the response to therapy.
Co-sponsored research with the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc.
Jaime F. Modiano, VMD, PhD
University of Colorado
NOTE: Dr. Modiano is now at the University of Minnesota