Recent work carried out by veterinary researchers at Oregon State University (OR, USA) could lead to a new assay that could better diagnose bladder cancer in both dogs and humans.
The most common cause of bladder cancer is transitional cell carcinoma; the researchers involved in this work identified a unique group of proteins that indicate the presence of transitional cell carcinoma.
Existing assays that detect bladder cancer in humans often have a high number of false-positive identifications (often as a result of urinary tract infections). Also, the biopsies used to make a definitive diagnosis require general anesthesia and run the risk of actually spreading the disease.
The disease is particularly common in some breeds of dog, such as border collies, sheepdogs and terriers, but is rarely diagnosed in animals before it has already spread significantly. It often develops in dogs as a result of exposure to pesticides, herbicides and poor quality foods, and in humans is closely related to smoking.
There is a poor prognosis for advanced-stage disease in both dogs and humans, as chemotherapy and radiation treatments are often ineffective, and the average survival time is less than 1 year. Scientists have said that an improved assay to detect this serious disease much earlier, in both animals and humans, should be possible, and may even become affordable enough to be used as an over-the-counter product to test urine (such as a human pregnancy test).
“Research of this type should first help us develop a reliable assay for this cancer in dogs, and improve the chance the disease can be caught early enough that treatments are effective,” explained Shay Bracha, an Assistant Professor in the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“However, this type of cancer is essentially the same in dogs and humans,” Bracha said. “Dogs are an excellent model for human cancer research, and an assay that works with dogs should be directly relevant to creation of a similar assay for humans. We hope to make it inexpensive and convenient, something that people could use routinely to protect either the health of their pets or themselves.”
This latest research, published in the journal Analytical Chemistry, used MS and the evolving science of proteomics to identify 96 proteins that appear related to transitional cell carcinoma. The group of proteins identified in this research already have a 90% accuracy and researchers say they hope to improve upon that with continued research.
However, the researchers say that some of these proteins are more than just biomarkers of the disease – they are part of the disease process. They explained how identifying proteins that are integral to the spread of the cancer may allow new targets for intervention and cancer therapies.