Developing Ways to Improve Cancer Treatments

Methods of predicting tumor response to a given chemotherapy protocol have historically focused on a few traits that could be measured in biopsy samples. Recent approaches have looked at the activity of genes within tumors to predict a tumor’s sensitivity to a given drug. Because many dogs with osteosarcoma eventually succumb to it in spite of treatment, a method to optimize chemotherapy selection could improve outcomes for dogs with this type of cancer.

Funded by Morris Animal Foundation, researchers from Colorado State University are developing a model to determine whether an osteosarcoma tumor from an individual dog is sensitive to a specific chemotherapy drug. This project is based on the idea that the genetics of human and canine cancers are similar enough that the wealth of data on human cancer genes and drug sensitivity can be mined and applied to canine cancers to aid in chemotherapy selection for dogs.

So far, researchers have collected genetic and drug-sensitivity data from canine cancer cell lines to compare with human data used to evaluate an individual tumor’s likely response to specific chemotherapy drugs. Currently, the researchers are looking at several commonly used drugs—doxorubicin, carboplatin and cisplatin—to determine if the human models will be accurate in predicting canine cancer responses to these drugs. Results are promising, and the next step is to use the gene expression–based models to search drug databases for drugs that could be more effective in treating canine osteosarcoma patients than the drugs that are the current standard of care.

If the study is successful, canine patients could be treated with the drug that would be most effective for their particular cancer. Data from this study could also lead to new treatment options for osteosarcoma. This type of approach, known as precision medicine, allows for tailored therapy that better controls cancer growth and spread and minimizes the possibility of using an ineffective drug that may cause unwanted side effects.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D13CA-044


Daniel L. Gustafson, PhD
Colorado State University