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Updated 2/22/24

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New study shows a link between cigarette smoke exposure in Scottish Terriers and higher risk for urinary bladder cancer

Scientists in the Werling Comparative Oncology Research Center (WCORC) recently published a study in the scientific journal The Veterinary Journal:  ”Association between cigarette smoke exposure and urinary bladder cancer in Scottish terriers in a cohort study”. Read more at Purdue Today and the full article at PubMed.

Note in this article, the term urothelial carcinoma was used instead of transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) as urothelial carcinoma is now the preferred term in the scientific literature. Urothelial carcinoma and TCC are the same cancer, and in dogs the vast majority of these are high grade invasive cancers. The Purdue team studied Scottish Terriers because they have an inherited risk for bladder cancer, and this makes the identification of environmental factors that also contribute to cancer risk more feasible than would be the case for dogs in other breeds. The study built on a recent bladder cancer screening / early detection / early intervention study in Scottie, and environmental exposures were assessed from dog owner questionnaires. By knowing which dogs did or did not develop cancer over time, the investigators were able to identify environmental factors that increased the cancer risk.

Some of the key findings were:

  • In the absence of “urinary symptoms”, biopsy-confirmed TCC was found in 32 of 120 Scotties through screening.
  • Dogs who lived in households with cigarette smokers were six time more likely to develop TCC than dogs not living with cigarette smokers.
  • Dogs that had the tobacco metabolite, cotinine, detected in their urine indicating exposure to cigarette smoke, were significantly (P<0.02) more likely to develop TCC than dogs that did not have cotinine in their urine.
  • Dogs living within a mile of a marsh or wetland were twenty-one times more likely to develop TCC than dogs not living near a marsh. It is possible that this is due to exposure to trapped pollutants in the marsh or exposure to pesticides which are often sprayed near marshy areas.

Dogs that had a history of previous urinary tract infections were more than three time more likely to develop TCC than dogs that did not have prior infections.

Study published on bladder cancer screening and early treatment in dogs

Scientists in the Werling Comparative Oncology Research Center (WCORC) recently published a new study in the scientific journal   Frontiers in Oncology  titled: ”Identification of a naturally-occurring canine model for early detection and intervention research in high grade urothelial carcinoma”. Note that urothelial carcinoma is another name for the bladder cancer - transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), a term more familiar to many pet owners.   The article can be found on PubMed. The study was aimed at improving the outlook for pet dogs and humans facing invasive urinary bladder cancer by focusing on early cancer detection and treatment in dogs with a high inherited risk for bladder cancer, i.e. Scottish Terriers. This is a unique study in that it focused on finding cancer early before there was any outward evidence of the disease, and treating it when it should be more responsive to drugs. The study was highly successful through the combined efforts of the Purdue team, veterinarians in the field, and the Scottish Terrier community.

Some of the key findings were:

  • It is indeed possible to find bladder cancer early through screening; 32 of 120 dogs (27%) had early cancer detected when the dogs did not have any outward evidence of cancer.
  • The screening approach in this study consisted of a standardized urinary tract ultrasound exam and urinalysis with urine sediment exam performed at 6-month intervals in Scottish Terriers who were 6 years old or older. The dogs with positive screening tests then had cystoscopic biopsies obtained.
  • The response to therapy was much better in the dogs in which the cancer was found early through screening than in dogs that had the more “typically-advanced” cancer that is seen once clinical signs (i.e. “symptoms”) develop.
  • A urine test to detect a   BRAF  mutation was not useful in bladder cancer detection due to the mutation being present in many dogs that did not have cancer. The   BRAF   test did not predict the presence of bladder cancer nor the future development of bladder cancer. The   BRAF  test also failed to predict if the tumor was responding to therapy or not. 
  • At the molecular level, patterns of gene expression were similar between the canine tumors and human muscle invasive bladder cancer, lending further support for dogs serving as a model for the most serious form of bladder cancer in humans. 

Read an interview with Dr. Deborah Knapp, the senior author on the study, and about the features and findings from the study.

Integrated Canine Data Commons (ICDC)

In Comparative Oncology news, the National Cancer Institute has announced the development of an Integrated Canine Data Commons (ICDC). Many different types of information on dog tumors, including genomics, pathology, clinical features, and case outcomes can be deposited into the ICDC. Scientists from all over the world can study the information from dogs and compare it with human cancer patient data from the   Cancer Research Data Commons! This is expected to lead to a much better understanding of the similarities and differences between canine and human cancer and better outcomes for cancer patients in both species. Multiple Purdue scientists are involved in the effort and have contributed two of the initial data sets in the Commons.

Read more at the National Cancer Institute