The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies Bicentenary

Blood test monitors progress of cancer in dogs

Spinout company launches rapid, sensitive liquid biopsy for canine cancer patients.

A team of scientists has developed a blood test that can monitor the progression of cancer in dogs.

The DNA-based liquid biopsy, from researchers at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, could help manage a disease that affects one-quarter of all dogs, and as many as one-half in some breeds. 

The technology, developed by newly formed spinout company CanCan Diagnostics, allows for patient monitoring at greater sensitivity than the currently used imaging method, while being much quicker and less invasive.  

Rapid test

CanCan’s test involves capturing a blood sample inside a small tubular device. The tube stabilises DNA in the sample, which can then be sequenced and analysed using a proprietary bioinformatic pipeline, with results available in 7-10 days.  

CanCan’s technology is aimed at supporting treatment of cancer in dogs as a monitoring tool, or to support difficult diagnoses. 

The test, called K9-LiquiDX, detects DNA which is circulating in the blood. A small fraction of this DNA in patients with cancer comes from tumour cells, which allows the test to monitor progression of tumours.

This technology, known as liquid biopsy, is increasingly used in human oncology, but it is in its infancy in the veterinary sector. 

Monitoring health

Dogs affected by cancer could be tested at the point of their diagnosis to establish a baseline result. This could then be compared with results from future tests to monitor progress of disease over the animal’s lifetime. 

We believe our approach of using liquid biopsy to detect and monitor cancers in dogs to be the first application of this type of technology to veterinary diagnostics in the UK and Europe. It will help improve the disease monitoring for affected pets and their owners, while also providing vets with a novel, minimally invasive and quick-to-perform diagnostic test.

We anticipate that further development could lead to sophisticated diagnosis and personalised treatments, including specific products for particular breeds, in future.

Dr Maciej ParysVeterinarian at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and director of Cancan Diagnostics

CanCan Diagnostics has been refining the technology for several years, since the idea was first developed by Dr Parys as part of a project funded by the Dogs Trust Canine Welfare Grant. 

Supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service, his team received a BBSRC Campus Innovation Account Award and ICURe Innovate UK grant to commercialise the technology and spin out into a company.

The company has also recently secured pre-seed funding from Advanced Genomics Limited and a private investor.

Market research indicates a positive response from veterinary oncologists and primary care veterinarians to this type of test.  

The team hopes to take their product to market early next year, and plans to offer additional tests to enhance diagnosis and personalise treatment for pets with cancer.   

Innovation and impact are at the heart of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine overall.

CanCan Diagnostics represents the translation of research into real-world solutions and it has great prospects for a major impact on canine oncology.

Professor David ArgyleHead of the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh

I am thrilled to announce the closing of this seed investment in CanCan Diagnostics. The leadership team at CanCan Diagnostics shares a vision that resonates strongly with the core values of Nonacus and Informed Genomics.

Together, we aim to deliver advanced cancer genetic tests that will significantly improve patient outcomes. We are dedicated to supporting CanCan Diagnostics in implementing cutting-edge advancements that have proven successful in human genetics, and enabling these diagnostics in the veterinary space.

Chris SaleChief Executive Officer, Advanced Genomics, comprising Nonacus and Informed Genomics

Related links

CanCan Diagnostics

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 800 staff and almost 1400 students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.

The School comprises:

The Roslin Institute

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

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.