Funded Research Studies

Osteosarcoma Research Study - University of Cambridge

Our latest funded research study is underway at the University of Cambridge. Professor Matthew Allen and his team are undertaking an "Evaluation of Metastasis Signature for Determining Rate of Disease Progression in Osteosarcoma".

Bone cancer is a common and potentially devastating condition affecting humans and companion animals. Primary bone cancers are those that originate in bone (e.g. Osteosarcoma and Ewing's sarcoma). Secondary bone cancers occur when a cancer from elsewhere in the body spreads (metasizes) to the bone (e.g. breast, lung and prostate cancer).

In both primary and secondary bone cancers, the growth of a tumour within bone leads to bone pain, bone damage and an increased risk of spontaneous fracture. Additionally, tumours that develop within bone have a high chance of subsequently spreading to vital organs such as the liver, lung and brain, often with fatal consequences.

The team at the University of Cambridge believes that controlling, or ideally preventing, the growth and subsequent spread of bone cancers to other organs will significantly extend life expectancy in cancer patients. To do this there is a need to understand the factors that determine whether bone cancers will spread outside the bone. By identifying these factors Professor Allen and his team hope to develop safe and selective treatments to target the tumours within bone.


Reciprocity in Action - University of Glasgow

The aim of the study was to optimise ‘liquid biopsy’ technology, a new way of blood sampling in dogs using a process previously developed for humans. Liquid biopsy allows a less invasive process of cancer diagnosis and monitoring response to treatment, as it is easier to repeat than conventional invasive biopsy procedures.

Previous research has shown that DNA is released into the bloodstream as a part of natural processes, and that measuring this cell-free DNA in blood and/or urine has proved useful for human cancer since a tiny part of the cell-free DNA may be released specifically from tumour cells, and is therefore called circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA). This has potential as a clinical blood sampling tool that can be used very precisely to identify the presence of a genetic change such as a cancer specific mutation, and therefore to monitor the disease humans or dogs may have.

The focus of the study was dog bladder tumours which contain a cancer specific mutation in the BRAF gene and have been developing a very sensitive PCR technique to detect the mutated DNA released in tiny amounts in the blood. More robustness in this technique is needed before it can be used clinically, however, a small cohort of bladder cancer specimens have been successfully created, ready for further study and the contribution towards the future development and validation of an alternative, more robust, novel diagnostic platform for canine cancer patients.


Animal Assisted Intervention Research

An online survey of parents and staff was conducted to assess the effect of an animal-assisted intervention (AAI) service at a UK children’s university teaching hospital.

Three volunteer handlers with five golden retriever dogs provided AAIs across all eight paediatric wards including day, medical, surgical, oncology and intensive care. Interventions range from meet and greet to assisting nursing care, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, as well as providing distraction during blood taking and other tests including
radiology examinations.

Two hundred surveys were completed and there was an overwhelmingly positive response to the service. No concerns were recorded with respect to the presence, cleanliness and behaviour of the dogs. 

There was a 100% recommendation that similar services should be supported across the UK.

The full report is available to download via the British Journal of Nursing (BJN) for subscribers to the BJN, and is also available to buy as single access.