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Tackling Canine Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma — a bone cancer referred to as OSA — occurs in dogs (and children) and is the eighth most common form of childhood cancer. The cause of OSA is unknown and accounts for about five percent of all canine tumors. It is the most common bone tumor found in dogs and is listed as a top health concern by dog clubs in the U.S.

Each year, eight to ten thousand cases of canine OSA are reported. It can affect all dogs, but the frequency is higher in larger dogs. An OSA tumor is usually difficult to diagnose until it has become quite large. Some symptoms of OSA can include decreased appetite, vomiting and general lethargy, as well as a swollen or lame limb.

OSA is characterized as a highly metastatic-type of tumor that typically grows quickly and can be very painful. Tumors can easily spread to the lungs and other areas of the body. Prognosis for recovery or survival of OSA varies by dog and is based on many factors.

Treatment of OSA for both dogs and children usually involves chemotherapy and amputation of the affected limb. Amputation can be a good option for an otherwise healthy pet and many go on to lead a quality life. (Dogs tend to do well with amputation because they do not experience the emotional response that humans often do after losing a limb.)

The AKC Canine Health Foundation (AKCCHF) is currently funding two significant OSA research projects to:

  • Evaluate the efficiency of a potential drug for treating the disease. This drug is using gene-based therapy that activates the immune system to prevent or delay recurrence and metastatic spread.
  • Identify genetic changes in the bone tumors themselves. This will allow researchers to develop genetic tests for OSA, which will then lead to a better understanding of the disease, enabling development of more targeted treatment options.

Over the years, the AKCCHF has funded more than 20 individual grants for OSA, totaling nearly $1.7 million. These studies have been successful in locating genomic regions associated with OSA in specific breeds of dogs.

This research is a significant accomplishment because researchers can use this information to work toward genetic tests for OSA that will allow treatments to be personalized to the affected dog. The research findings also provide valuable insights into human research because of the similarities between canine and human OSA. Other studies funded by the AKCCHF have investigated potential drugs to treat OSA.

For more information on OSA, visit: http://www.akcchf.org/pdfs/newsletters/spring_2010.pdf

For more information on the AKC Canine Health Foundation, visit: http://www.akcchf.org

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