Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Activity in Canine Hemangiosarcoma

Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is a common and fatal canine cancer, for which there are no effective treatments. HSA is caused by malignant blood vessel cells that spread. Despite surgery and chemotherapy, the median survival time for dogs diagnosed with HSA is little more than six months. It is more commonly seen in male dogs between eight to 10 years old, and German shepherds are at greatest risk with golden retrievers, Great Danes, boxers, English setters and pointers also at high risk. The investigators are looking for targets in HSA that are vulnerable to new therapeutic approaches and are evaluating a new class of drugs that show promise in treating this deadly cancer.


Cancer cells frequently grow uncontrollably when normally regulated growth-signaling pathways become deranged. Using a variety of approaches, researchers showed that several growth-factor receptors trigger internal messages in the dog’s body that promote the growth of hemangiosarcoma cells. By targeting these abnormalities, the team was able to investigate a new class of anticancer drugs that specifically block uncontrolled signaling pathways. These drugs, called tyrosine kinase inhibitors, have been revolutionary in improving treatment for some human cancers. The researchers hope to use the information learned in this study to develop similar inhibitors that would treat hemangiosarcoma. This would be a major advancement from the traditional treatment of chemotherapy.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D03CA-071


Stuart C. Helfand, DVM
University of Wisconsin