PETS & PEOPLE: New Method To Detect Cancer In Dogs


One of the big dilemmas in Veterinary Medicine as well as human medicine is the diagnosis of cancer.  Presently, I have to depend on blood chemistry analysis, physical exams, symptoms and occasionally x-rays. None of the above are always diagnostic.  Therefore, any new tools are more than welcome, and it is with a great deal of enthusiasm that I am looking forward to instituting a new test that has the potential of letting a pet owner know that there is concern before physical signs are present or invasive surgery is required for biopsy.

Cancer is by far the leading cause of death in dogs, and six million new cancer diagnoses are made each year in a population of approximately 90 million pet dogs in the United States; by comparison, there are less than two million new cancer diagnoses per year in over 330 million people in the US.  There are currently no established cancer screening programs for dogs, and the diagnostic and follow-up processes are often complicated or delayed by the risks and costs of invasive procedures, and by limited access to specialized care.  Furthermore, the majority of cancers are diagnosed only when dogs start to show clinical signs of their disease, by which point the cancer is often advanced and the chances of achieving a cure or long-term control are low.

Each cell in a dog's body contains billions of DNA "letters" that make up the dog's genome. Cancer develops as a result of the successive accumulation of genomic alterations (DNA mutations) over time.  All cells release DNA fragments into the bloodstream, and DNA released from cancer cells contains unique genomic alterations that can be detected by liquid biopsy technology.  The test, OncoK9 is a multi-cancer early detection (MCED) test for the detection and characterization of cancer-associated genomic alterations in DNA isolated from canine whole blood samples, using next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology.  OncoK9 is intended for use in dogs who are at higher risk of cancer.  It is recommended as an annual screening test for all dogs starting at eight years of age and potentially at younger ages for dogs belonging to breeds that are highly predisposed to cancer.  It is also recommended as an aid-in-diagnosis for dogs in which cancer is suspected based on clinical signs or other clinical findings.  As with any laboratory test, OncoK9 results should be interpreted by a veterinarian in the context of each patient’s medical history and clinical presentation.

PetDx is the research company that has conducted what it believes to be the largest-ever clinical research program in veterinary cancer diagnostics, with blood samples collected prospectively from over 1,600 client-owned dogs, with and without a diagnosis of cancer, across more than 50 clinical sites on 4 continents.  Nearly 600 of these subjects were included in the CANDiD (CANcer Detection in Dogs) Study for clinical validation of the OncoK9 test, which demonstrated clinically actionable performance with robust detection rates and very low false positives comparable with state-of-the-art multi-cancer early detection tests for humans. Results of the CANDiD Study will be submitted for publication in a leading peer-reviewed journal.

This test, OncoK9 – relies on a routine blood draw using a provided kit.  It does not require prior fasting or any sample processing in the clinic.  The blood sample is shipped overnight at ambient temperature to the PetDx laboratory in San Diego, where it undergoes processing using proprietary methods optimized for canine cell-free DNA analysis.  An easy-to-interpret digital report is then issued to the ordering veterinarian, indicating whether a cancer signal has been detected or not.

The test is recommended as an annual screening test for dogs at higher risk for developing cancer based on age and/or breed predisposition; and as an aid in diagnosis for dogs suspected of cancer based on clinical signs or other clinical findings.

"In the future, we envision offering the test for additional use cases, including minimal residual disease detection, recurrence and treatment response monitoring, and targeted treatment selection, greatly expanding the veterinarian's toolbox for the management of cancer in dogs," said Andi Flory, DVM, DACVIM, Chief Medical Officer of PetDx and board-certified veterinary oncologist. 

“Now pet owners, for the first time in history, will be able to go and have an asymptomatic dog tested for cancer,” said Grosu, whose mixed-breed rescue died two months after diagnosis. “We see this as the single biggest, unmet need in veterinary care today — and that’s not an exaggeration.”

Dr. Lamb is the Veterinarian at the Manchester Animal Hospital.

clinical medicine, cancer, cancer screening, oncology, liver cancer in cats and dogs, prostate cancer, manchester animal hospital, liquid biopsy technology