Highlights from the Third World Veterinary Cancer Congress

The latest research and innovations to treating cancer

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Southern Brazil and nearby Iguazu Falls was the setting in late May for the Third World Veterinary Cancer Congress.

The Brazilian, European, Japanese and American cancer societies organized key lectures, which served to nourish the hope, education and collaborative efforts of the 439 attendees representing 27 countries. Many papers highlighting career achievements in oncology and related research were presented.

Among the highlights:


Dr. Gordon Theilen, professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, the forefather of veterinary clinical oncology, engaged all with historical information on the One Medicine war on cancer. Theilen introduced the publication of his memoirs, “Boy With a Wounded Thumb.”


Drs. Maria Daglia, Johan de Voss, David Vail and Takuo Ishida, presidents of the Brazilian, European, American and Japanese societies, respectively, talked about their organizations and work and the collaboration that created a congress that meets every four years. Daglia’s leadership, the Brazilian hospitality and the stunning beauty of Iguazu Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, were legendary.

Precision Medicine

Dr. Chand Khanna of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., described the future of veterinary oncology as being based on genomic analysis platforms. This data reveals a patient’s specific yet complex cancer cell targets to select therapy that may lead to more success.

“Canine profiling will open a new era in canine cancer care because it will provide clinically actionable information to individualize cancer therapy,” he said. “Precision medicine is a new commercial opportunity that will not be based upon clinical trials.”

Database Creation

One huge collaborative effort will be an establishment of the Global Animal Cancer Registry Group. It will be based on the Danish Veterinary Cancer Registry as described by Dr. Annmarie Thuri Kristensen, who organized the first congress in Copenhagen, Denmark. The challenging global registry is being coordinated by Brazilian senior veterinary student Joyce Carvalho, who plans to connect as many epidemiologists and oncologists as possible. Contact her at joyce.carvalho2@hotmail.com

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Cancer Immunity

Why do naked mole rats live 28 years and bowhead whales 211 years without developing cancer? The answer appears to lie in the work of tumor suppressor genes and very high molecular weight hyaluronan, said Andrei Seluanov, a researcher at the University of Rochester.

History of TVT

Did you know that transmissible venereal tumors (TVT) in dogs have been traced to the migrations of mankind over 5,000 years? Dr. Elizabeth Murchinson of Cambridge University reported remarkable insights on live cancer cell transmission of TVT and the Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) between animals.

Professor of Light

Dr. Clemens Lowik of the Netherlands targets necrosis, which is common in heart attacks, strokes and cancer. He illuminates cancer tissues via targeting necrosis or tumor-specific fluorescent markers for surgeons to visualize. “Surgery today is still medieval after the scans because the surgeon is still guessing and using their eyes,” he said. “If surgeons could see the malignant cells, there would be no need to remove all lymph nodes, only the identified sentinel nodes. This would avoid lymphedema.” Fluorescence-based tumor imaging would guide surgeons with real-time imaging to facilitate clean margins. He uses Bremachlorin, a seaweed-derived florescent marker that can be combined with targeted cancer vaccines to follow progress.


Dr. Lluis Maria Mir of France is the originator of a drug-delivery technique known as electro-chemotherapy, which increases Bleomycin uptake into cells by a thousand-fold. He introduced this modality for human and veterinary medicine. Brazilian and European surgical oncologists shared their experience and case reports on this modality. Mir is researching viral and nonviral vectors for anti-tumor gene therapy via electroporation or electropermeabilization using unique settings.

Innovations in Cancer Therapy

Dr. Jaime Modiano of Mexico City and currently at the University of Minnesota is part of a remarkable collaborative research team. The group is studying ways to prevent or reverse carcinogenesis so as to reduce morbidity and mortality in high-risk breeds such as golden retrievers. “By the time we see cancer, it has 1 billion cells with more complexity than imagined,” he said.

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Modiano’s lab is developing a hemangiosarcoma test that can detect its circulating hematopoietic progenitor precursor cells, or cancer stem cells. A “liquid biopsy,” he said, could be run on Portuguese water dogs, German shepherds, golden retrievers, boxers and other breeds at risk. A bacterial endotoxin has been found that kills hemangiosarcoma precursor cells at low, nontoxic levels. The concept of chemoprophylaxis for hemangiosarcoma will be evaluated in the Shine On study.

Combination Vaccines

Modiano discussed training the immune system against specific neoantigens of various cancers. Genetically engineered yeast (tarmogens) incorporate the antigen and can be given as vaccines, which become engulfed by dendritic cells. The next frontier holds “cancer vaccine cocktails” against osteosarcoma, lymphosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma, he said.

Cancer MoonShot 2020

Modiano described the MoonShot as the most comprehensive cancer initiative ever launched. It will accelerate the use of combination immunotherapy as the next-generation standard of care in human cancer patients. The alliance will start randomized Phase 2 trials in 20,000 patients at all stages of disease. The data will inform Phase 3 trials in the attempted development of an effective vaccine-based immunotherapy to combat cancer by 2020.

Targeted Therapy

Dr. Cheryl London, who replaced Theilen at UC Davis after his retirement and is now at Ohio State University, presented an overview of targeted therapy. Her pivotal research is in kinase dysfunction, KIT dysregulation and strategies to inhibit cell signaling using small molecule pathway inhibitors.

Data is being generated using KIT as a target for immunotherapy. In the future, more durable responses are expected using targeted combinatorial treatment instead of intravenous chemo.

Next Congress

Dr. Takuo Ishida will organize and host the 2020 congress in Tokyo. Ishida established the Japanese Veterinary Cancer Society in 1994. The group now has 2,000 members, holds two meetings a year and has certified 40 specialists.

Dr. Alice Villalobos is president emeritus of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics and director of Pawspice and Animal Oncology Consultation Service in Southern California. She may be reached at pawspice@yahoo.com

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Originally published in the August 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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