Searching for Ways to Control Hemangiosarcoma Cancer Cells in Dogs

Hemangiosarcoma is a highly metastatic and incurable cancer that can affect dogs at any age. It is particularly prevalent in certain breeds such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Portuguese Water Dogs. Unfortunately, hemangiosarcoma is a disease that is poorly understood and for which there are currently no good treatment options.

One of the main reasons why therapies fail may be due to the existence of cancer stem cells. These cells are responsible for initiating and maintaining the cells within the tumor and they are also highly resistant to most chemotherapy. Researchers at University of Minnesota, funded by Morris Animal Foundation, are examining the role of small molecules that may serve as signals in the regeneration of hemangiosarcoma stem cells. Specifically, investigators are evaluating the potential to control the activity of hemangiosarcoma stem cells by altering these molecular signals in a way that stops stem cell regeneration and enhances sensitivity to chemotherapy.

So far, preliminary data show that one signaling pathway under study has distinct effects on the regeneration of hemangiosarcoma cancer stem cells in the lab. This signaling pathway seems to affect the stem cells’ efficiency in forming a sphere as part of the self-renewal process. If this signal can be altered, it may reduce the stem cells’ ability to renew and maintain the tumor. Further research is needed to confirm the results.

This study is providing valuable insight into the properties of cancer stem cells that could help in the development of tests to predict a patient’s outcome and appropriate therapies to treat canine hemangiosarcoma. Funding for this project is also supporting the training of a promising, new canine cancer researcher.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D13CA-400


Jong Hyuk Kim, DVM, PhD
University of Minnesota