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PetDx-led Team Clinically Validates Liquid Biopsy Test for Canine Cancers

NEW YORK – New research is revealing the potential for screening dogs for early-stage cancers across many cancer types using a next-generation sequencing-based blood test called OncoK9, developed by pet liquid biopsy company PetDx.

The San Diego-based veterinary diagnostics firm raised $62 million in a Series B financing round late last year.

"Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs, yet there are no established screening paradigms for early detection," the authors wrote in PLOS One on Tuesday. "Liquid biopsy methods that interrogate cancer-derived genomic alterations in cell-free DNA in blood are being adopted for multi-cancer early detection in human medicine and are now available for veterinary use."

As part of the international "Cancer detection in dogs" (CANDiD) study, investigators at PetDx, the Veterinary Specialty Hospital of San Diego, and elsewhere enrolled nearly 1,400 dogs with or without cancer diagnoses at 41 sites in the US, Canada, Brazil, the Netherlands, France, and Hong Kong. The animals tested spanned several dog breeds, they noted, varied in size and age, and encompassed dozens of cancer types.

"The pace of enrollment into this study across the globe was truly inspiring: dog owners as well as veterinarians are eager to have a noninvasive cancer detection test and were happy that their dogs could be part of this groundbreaking research," first author Andi Flory, chief medical officer at PetDx and a veterinarian and veterinary internal medicine specialist affiliated with Veterinary Specialty Hospital of San Diego and the Veterinary Specialty Hospital of North County, said in a statement.

In the 1,100 dogs that met the team's inclusion criteria, the liquid biopsy method identified existing cancer cases with almost 55 percent sensitivity and a specificity approaching 99 percent.

Across several of the most common canine cancer types, the test had a detection rate approaching 62 percent, though that rate rose to over 85 percent for cancer types known to be particularly aggressive in dogs, including lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma. In addition to finding a significant subset of known cancer cases, the investigators noted that their test uncovered yet-to-be-diagnosed cancers in four symptom-free dogs.

"In a large clinical validation study using an independent testing set, a novel [next-generation sequencing]-based [multi-cancer early detection] liquid biopsy test demonstrated the ability to identify cancer-associated genomic alterations in canine patients — in some cases many months prior to the onset of clinical signs — across a large and diverse set of cancer types," they reported.

From these and other findings, the investigators concluded that the OncoK9 liquid biopsy panel could offer a noninvasive option for detecting multiple cancer types, including in symptom-free dogs.

"Having this new tool in the toolbox is incredibly exciting for veterinarians," Flory said. "Earlier detection, when incorporated as part of preventive care, can improve cancer outcomes and may shorten the path to diagnosis in clinically challenging cases."