New research published in the Nature journal, Communications Biology, shows evidence for a comparative study that scientists could use to improve treatment options. The study focuses on osteosarcoma (OS), an aggressive type of cancer that produces immature bone. It is the most common type of cancer that arises in bones, and although it is relatively rare (only about 1,000 new cases are diagnosed yearly), it usually affects children and those under the age of 25. Interestingly, it is also the most commonly-diagnosed primary bone tumor in dogs, affecting over 25,000 dogs annually.
"While osteosarcoma (OS) is rare in children, it is all too common in many dog breeds, which makes it a prime candidate for the kind of comparative cancer biology studies that could enhance drug development for both children and our canine friends," said senior author Will Hendricks, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in TGen's Integrated Cancer Genomics Division.
The research comes from Tufts University and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), which is an affiliate of City of Hope. Perhaps due to its uncommonness, the disease has not seen any noteworthy medical advancements in the last thirty years; the authors hope their findings regarding the genetic similarities of osteosarcoma in canines and children will lead to new breakthroughs.
The need for such breakthrough is urgent, say the authors. Although treatment can prolong a patient’s life after diagnosis, approximately 30% of children diagnosed with OS die from metastatic tumors within 5 years; with dogs over 90% die within 2 years.
Upon analyzing the genomes of dogs and children, the researchers discovered that canine OS is similar to human OS in characteristics such as low mutation rates, structural complexity, altered cellular pathways. They also observed recurrent and potentially cancer-causing mutations in two different genes called SETD2 and DMD, both in canine osteosarcoma.
"These findings set the stage for understanding OS development in dogs and humans, and establish genomic contexts for future comparative analyses," said senior author Cheryl A. London, DVM, Ph.D., the Anne Engen and Dusty Professor in Comparative Oncology at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
Contributing author Dr. Jeffrey Trent adds, "Leveraging the similarities between the human and canine forms of OS adds greatly to our understanding of how this aggressive cancer develops and spreads. More importantly, it provides an opportunity to develop therapies that make a difference in the lives of children and pets.”