The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Canine oral cancer study aims to find new treatments

Understanding of canine melanoma could pave the way for personalised medicine and create biobank for drug screening.

Lab Photo

Researchers are seeking to identify drugs to prevent the progressive spread of a type of oral cancer in dogs.

A search for new treatments could improve the outcome for patients with canine oral malignant melanoma, the most common type of mouth cancer affecting dogs.

Scientists from the Hospital for Small Animals and the Roslin Institute, in collaboration with the MRC Human Genetics Unit at the Institute of Genetics and Cancer, will examine samples of naturally occurring cancerous tissue from laboratories around the world to identify biological markers which show whether the cancer is likely to spread.

The team will also develop samples of tissue in the laboratory, grown from diseased cells, with which to test drugs.

Researchers hope their insights will pave the way towards personalised, precision canine medicine.

Their project follows previous research identifying key genes linked to tumours that are likely to spread.

Researchers will now seek to further investigate these genes and their activity linked to the spread of cancer.

Using samples from tissue banks in the UK, Europe and US, the team aims to identify sub-types of melanoma, characterised by differences in their gene activity. They will link these findings to disease progression and patient outcomes.

Scientists will aim to uncover the biological processes behind the development of disease sub-types, and determine drugs that might target these pathways to prevent cancer spread.

Researchers will grow samples of cancerous tissue in the lab to develop miniature organs, known as organoids, as models of disease by on which to test potential drug treatments.

The team aims to develop a living biobank of organoids derived from dog tissue, as a platform for screening drugs to prevent cancer spread.

The findings could reveal sub-types of cancer and tailored treatments for each, improving on current generic treatments and leading to better outcomes for patients. Researchers aim to develop their findings into drug trials involving patients being treated at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

Research is funded by the UK Kennel Club Charitable Trust (KCCT).

There is much to discover about the development of canine oral melanoma, for example how it may differ between breeds, its impact on various tissues or location within the mouth. Identifying sub-types of this disease can help to inform our understanding how spread progresses, so that more effective potential drug targets, tailored to a sub-type, if necessary, can be identified.

Dr Kelly BlacklockSenior Lecturer, Small Animal Soft Tissue Surgery

We are proud to be supporting this important research, which could change lives of thousands of dogs in the future. More personalised medicine can bring better results, helping to stop the spread and save canine lives. It is important more is invested in research like this to better understand canine diseases and give us better tools to fight them, and I am looking forward to learning about the findings of this research.

Reverend Bill KingChairman of The Kennel Club Charitable Trust
About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies 

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than eight hundred staff and almost fourteen hundred students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos. 

The School comprises: 

The Roslin Institute 

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security 

The Roslin Innovation Centre 

The Hospital for Small Animals 

Equine Veterinary Services 

Farm Animal Services 

Easter Bush Pathology 

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education 

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.