Hemangiosarcoma: Advancing canine cancer treatment with targeted therapies
Canine cancer diagnoses can be devastating and demoralizing. While research and studies for human cancer have brought us a long way when it comes to treatment and instilling hope for our loved ones, the same can’t necessarily be said for the world of pet medicine. Despite this, there are many passionate veterinarians and vet oncologists out there who are helping to move the needle on pet cancer research and treatment. Taking cues from the progress made on human cancer treatment, FidoCure uses genomic testing to match dogs with targeted therapies for their specific cancer profile. Not only does this process increase the chances of a better prognosis, but it helps vets and vet oncologists deduce effective therapies for future canine cancer cases. FidoCure has already proven that a prognosis can be improved using targeted therapies. Take hemangiosarcoma for instance…
What is Hemangiosarcoma?
Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is an aggressive form of canine cancer that attacks the walls of blood vessels. It’s one of the most common types of cancer seen in dogs, accounting for approximately 70% of cases according to a recent study conducted by Morris Animal Foundation. To put that into perspective, about 75% percent of canine deaths are related to cancer. An overwhelming majority of these cases turn out to be HSA, making it one of the largest unmet needs in veterinary medicine. Though HSA tumors are most often found in the spleen, heart, liver, and skin, they can spread to many other parts of the body.
- Symptoms: Symptoms can vary depending on what part of the body is being affected, but often include:
- Pale gums
- Difficulty breathing
- Exercise intolerance
- Decreased appetite
- Distended abdomen
- And in cutaneous/subcutaneous (skin) cases:
- Red or purple mass, usually in areas of little fur such as the abdomen or legs
- Bruising around the tumor
- Bleeding from the tumor
Unless a vet suspects HSA based on patient history or other clinical signs, a diagnosis can be difficult to make until the cancer has progressed to a late stage. If HSA is suspected, vets will check for enlarged internal organs, perform x-rays and/or an ultrasound, and send bloodwork/biopsies in for confirmation when possible. Because this cancer can affect many different systems, diagnosis may look different from case-to-case. It’s important to note that because HSA tumors are blood-filled and very sensitive, they are susceptible to rupture which can cause internal bleeding and other complications that require emergency medical intervention. Unless the tumor appears as a dermal lesion or abnormal abdominal lump, it isn’t usually until it ruptures that a dog shows clinical signs of HSA. Such signs include sudden lethargy or even collapsing, indicative of internal hemorrhaging and an advanced case of this malignant cancer.
Average Prognosis & Traditional Forms of Treatment
The prognosis for this form of cancer depends on various factors such as tumor location, its size, and metastasis. Early intervention can greatly improve life expectancy, but because of its aggressive nature, HSA cases do not typically carry a good prognosis. The average life expectancy for dogs with HSA is approximately 5-7 months after diagnosis.
The most common forms of treatment for HSA are surgery and chemotherapy. Surgery is optimal for removing the tumor altogether, but is often not possible or advisable in cases where the cancer has spread to vital organs like the heart. Chemotherapy is used alone in some cases, or in tandem with surgery to slow or prevent metastasis. Other drugs may be prescribed to manage side effects and symptoms of radiation therapy as well as the cancer itself.
Traditional methods of treatment for HSA often involve frequent visits to the vet to administer medicine or for check-ups/emergency intervention. This can add a great deal of stress and strain on both the dog and dog owners.
Targeted Therapies Through FidoCure
FidoCure’s process uses genomic testing in conjunction with tumor type to identify possible cancer-causing mutations. From there, one or multiple targeted therapies are suggested to precisely attack the cancer cells. In the case of hemangiosarcoma, FidoCure has been able to help extend patients’ life expectancy beyond the average prognosis. Treatment may vary depending on the case, but in many instances the prescribed medicine(s) can be administered from home. This cuts down on time spent traveling to and from the vet and greatly reduces stress for both pet and pet parent, and thus improves the quality of life despite such a challenging illness. For a more in-depth look into how FidoCure can help optimize treatment for canine HSA patients, read Sam’s case study here. Sam outlived his prognosis by over one year from the initial diagnosis. Thanks to the treatment plan suggested through FidoCure, his family got an extra year of quality time with their beloved pet.
There is still much to be learned in the realm of canine cancer, and FidoCure is on the cutting edge. Not only does FidoCure help families access the best treatment possible for their dogs, but the data collected during each and every case is used to inform how future cases are treated.