A white golden retriever mix dog lays on a silver metal table at the vet's office while the vet and his owner talk behind him. The vet has her long curly hair pulled back into a low ponytail, is wearing light blue scrubs, and holds a clipboard in her gloved hands. The owner has short brunette hair, a dark beard, and is wearing a tan colored turtleneck and jeans.

Tackling new strategies for canine bone cancer at MCC

A version of this article originally appeared on the AKCCHF website, authored by Sharon M. Albright, DVM, CCRT.

Osteosarcoma, the most common form of bone cancer in dogs, is a tumor that usually affects the limbs of middle-aged to older, large breed dogs and carries a dire prognosis. As cancerous cells replace the normal bone, causing swelling, pain, and increased risk of fracture, the need for innovative treatment strategies intensifies. That's where our MCC researchers come in, helping study and design new therapies that can treat and even prevent bone cancer in dogs. 

In typical, standard treatment, the primary tumor is removed via amputation of the affected limb or various salvage techniques. This is paired with chemotherapy to address cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, less than half of dogs receiving standard treatment survive more than a year after diagnosis, which means there is a consistent need to try new methods of treatment. What's more, osteosarcoma in dogs shares many characteristics with osteosarcoma in humans (most often diagnosed in adolescents)—that means that our insights into treating canine bone cancer may have the potential to significantly advance our understanding of and treatment approaches for both dogs and children. 

These fresh ideas and approaches come from seasoned and new researchers alike who can build on our current understanding of canine bone cancer and use evolving technologies to improve outcomes for affected dogs. Thankfully, American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation (AKC CHF) funded-researchers at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, are doing just that! Below, we take a look at what they had to say to CHF about testing bold, new strategies to fight bone cancer while training the next generation of canine health researchers. 

Dr. Jaime Modiano poses with dog outside

Talking about CHF-funded research projects, MCC's Dr. Jaime Modiano, professor of oncology and comparative medicine, U of M College of Veterinary Medicine, says, "These projects merge two of the best parts of my job: working with and for dogs and working with brilliant and motivated people."

He adds, "Our projects are addressing the impact of this disease by developing strategies for prevention with the intent of reducing overall incidence and by improving our understanding of how we can use the immune system to to improve treatment outcomes. Our team members come from many walks of life, and their individual life experiences and motivation are a constant source of new ideas." 

Dr. Julia Medland with brown hair poses against blue backdrop

Dr. Julia Medland, a newly-appointed assistant professor of oncology at the College of Veterinary Medicine, who was mentored by Dr. Modiano says, "Osteosarcoma is a frustrating cancer with a lot still unknown about it. The more we learn, the more complex and challenging the disease appears. We really need to reframe how we approach and treat the disease to benefit both dogs and people."

Caitlyn, blonde hair, poses outsite

Caitlyn Callaghan, veterinary student, learned a great deal from working in Dr. Modiano's lab during her summers and shadowing Dr. Medland. "It was a great experience and solidified my interest in oncology," she says. She adds, "Cancer treatment options for dogs are definitely increasing—I want to make sure dog owners know that they have access to these many options."


Courtney, brown hair, poses with dog

Veterinary student Courtney Labé fell in love with clinical oncology working at a referral hospital. "[Veterinary school] has its challenges, but I don't think there's a more rewarding or exciting field out there," she says. Courtney emphasizes the importance of ongoing training: "It's important for veterinary students to view continual engagement with research as part of the life-long learning involved in veterinary medicine. I am thankful to be surrounded by classmates and instructors who value continued improvement in patient outcomes and critical analysis of new research," she says. 

The interplay between cancer research and care for animals and cancer research and care for humans is critical to uncovering new knowledge and strategies for writing cancer's last chapter. Thanks to study teams like Dr. Modiano's laboratory team—including students, residents, professors, technicians, and more—as well as the crucial support of organizations like CHF and its donors, we are making progress in the fight against this devastating cancer and many other diseases affecting dogs. 

Check out the full CHF story and learn more about CHF-funded research and educational grants.