Developing liquid cancer biopsies for canine patients - Reciprocity in action

Our funding helped Professor Joanna Morris and Dr Tomoko Iwata at the University of Glasgow in their work to develop ‘liquid biopsy’ technology for use in canine cancer patients.


Liquid biopsies aim to detect fragments of DNA from tumour cells (called ctDNA) in a patient’s blood or urine. If a way can be found to reliably detect and monitor ctDNA, it might help medics understand a lot about the type, size and stage of the tumour, without the patient having to undergo invasive tissue biopsies.

This new type of ‘liquid biopsy’ is already in development for use in humans, but is not yet widely available for companion animals.


What did the research achieve?

In this study the researchers investigated whether a particularly sensitive molecular test could potentially be used to detect ctDNA from canine patient samples. The test was designed to detect a mutation in the BRAF gene. Mutations in this gene are found in both human and canine cancers, including canine bladder cancer.

In the course of this work the team successfully established optimal conditions for collection, transport, storage, and processing of ctDNA from canine patient samples. They also created a collection of bladder cancer samples from a cohort of canine patients- a valuable research resource.

Through painstaking work, the researchers were able to establish that although this technique could work in principle, a more robust, reliable method may be needed for clinical use. They are now building on these findings by continuing their research in new and related areas, and this work will help to inform future progress.


How can this research impact One Medicine?

These findings have helped push forward further understanding and progress of liquid biopsy development and ctDNA science for both dogs and humans.

As well as being presented and shared with other researchers and veterinary and medical students at a Comparative Research Topics conference, this research also contributed to a PhD thesis which investigated both human and canine disease.


Project start date: 2018 [Project completed]