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New test monitors progress of cancer in dogs

Spinout CanCan Diagnostics launches with liquid biopsy for dogs
The CanCan Diagnostics team with founder Dr Maciej Parys and two dogs
12 Dec 2023

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

The DNA-based liquid biopsy, from University of Edinburgh researchers, could help manage a disease that affects a quarter of all dogs, and as many as a half in some breeds.

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

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-LiquiDXâ, 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.

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.

Dr Maciej Parys, veterinarian at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and director of Cancan Diagnostics, said:

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. ”

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.

Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations, said:

We are delighted to have supported CanCan Diagnostics to form a company, and look forward to continuing to support them in bringing their novel, minimally invasive test, K9-LiquiDX, to market, where it can improve monitoring of cancer for pets and their caregivers. ”

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.

Chris Sale, CEO of Advanced Genomics, comprising Nonacus and Informed Genomics, said:

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. "

Professor David Argyle, Head of the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said:

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. ”