Dr.  Jong Hyuk Kim

University of Minnesota researcher published in Molecular Cancer Research

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - March 1, 2021 - Jong Hyuk Kim, DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology and Comparative Medicine in Veterinary Clinical Sciences and Masonic Cancer Center member, published new research around the causes of canine hemangiosarcoma and human angiosarcoma, which are malignant vascular tumors. 

The paper, "Genomically Complex Human Angiosarcoma and Canine Hemangiosarcoma Establish Convergent Angiogenic Transcriptional Programs Driven by Novel Gene Fusions" was published in Molecular Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. 

The study focused on the similarities and differences between canine hemangiosarcoma and human angiosarcoma, predicted outcomes, and the potential to develop new treatments. While there is some overlap to the genes that have mutations in canine hemangiosarcoma and human angiosarcoma, the overlap is far from perfect. The spectrum of mutations seems to be more diverse in humans than in dogs.

“A fusion gene, a type of gene mutation, is a hybrid of two independent genes found in cancers. Our goal for this study was to identify novel fusion genes in malignant vascular cancers that occur in humans and in dogs,” noted Dr. Kim, who led the study at the U of M. “We found different patterns of fusions in tumors from each species. It is not surprising because humans and dogs are different.”

“However, our data suggest that the gene fusions in both the human and the canine tumors contribute to formation of morphologically similar tumors, which are  blood vessel-forming phenotypes, by activating common molecular programs,” continued Dr. Kim. “These results lead us to predict that targeted drugs which disrupt these convergent pathways could be the key to developing successful therapies for these rare and highly aggressive tumors in both species."

The U of M group previously showed that there were distinct molecular subtypes of canine hemangiosarcoma, which the group hypothesized would be associated with clinical outcomes. 

“The present study confirmed that hypothesis; specifically, all the hemangiosarcomas that had fusion genes belonged to the angiogenic (highly blood vessel-forming) molecular subtype, and dogs with these tumors generally had very short survival times,” said Dr. Kim. “In contrast, we did not identify any fusion genes in hemangiosarcomas belonging to the immune/inflammatory molecular subtype, and approximately half of the dogs with these tumors had durable, long-term remissions when they were treated with surgery followed by chemotherapy. These findings are important, as they could be used to guide the decision of clinicians and owners to implement treatment for dogs with hemangiosarcoma, as well as inform the development of effective treatments for dogs with the most aggressive forms of this disease."

The project was a collaboration that included the Animal Cancer Care and Research Program team at the University of Minnesota and scientists from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and North Carolina State University.

About the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota
The Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, is the Twin Cities’ only Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated ‘Outstanding’ by the National Cancer Institute. As Minnesota’s Cancer Center, we have served the entire state for more than 25 years. Our researchers, educators, and care providers have worked to discover the causes, prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer and cancer-related diseases. Learn more at cancer.umn.edu.

About the College of Veterinary Medicine
The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine affects the lives of animals and people every day through educational, research, service, and outreach programs. Established in 1947, the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine is Minnesota’s only veterinary college. Fully accredited, the college has graduated nearly 4,000 veterinarians and hundreds of scientists. The college is also home to the Veterinary Medical Center, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the Leatherdale Equine Center and The Raptor Center. To learn more, visit vetmed.umn.edu