Cancer detection tests are not common in veterinary medicine for a variety of reasons, but fortunately this is a large area of research right now. The ability to use less invasive tests to detect cancer earlier could significantly improve the prognosis of affected pets. One of the most useful cancer detection tests that has been developed recently is a test to detect bladder cancer in dogs.
Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) is by far the most common tumor diagnosed in the bladder of dogs, as it arises from the cells that line the inside of the bladder. This tumor can also originate in the kidney, urethra or in the prostate of male dogs. The test, called the CADET BRAF assay, can detect TCC in any of these locations. A free-catch urine sample is collected either at home or at the veterinary clinic and added to a special collection cup for processing. The sample is submitted for analysis and results are typically returned in 4-7 business days.
TCC can cause clinical signs similar to other urinary tract diseases, such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones, bladder polyps, or other inflammation, so the signs are similar for cancerous vs. non-cancerous causes.
How does it work?
The CADET test works by detecting a mutation in the BRAF gene that is present in 85% of diagnosed TCC cases. The test will not return a positive results in cases of inflammation, recurring urinary tract infections, non-cancerous polyps, or other types of bladder cancer. A negative result most often means that TCC is not present, but if TCC is still highly suspected, there is an additional test that can be performed to confirm a negative result.
Who should have the test done?
This test is a great, non-invasive way to confirm a diagnosis of TCC when a mass of the bladder, prostate, or urethra is found on ultrasound. It can be done on pets experiencing urinary tract signs that will not resolve, or keep returning after completing therapy such as antibiotics. It can also be used as a screening test in at-risk breeds, as the test has been proven to become positive about 4 months before a visible tumor can be seen within the bladder. Dogs at higher risk of developing TCC such as Scottish terriers, West Highland white terriers, Shetland sheepdogs (Sheltie), or beagles can be screened every 6-12 months after the age of 6 as a means of detecting this cancer earlier in the course of disease.
What information is gained from the result?
By detecting TCC earlier in the course of disease, it often allows us to offer better treatment options. Some tumors may be able to be surgically removed at an earlier stage, while many cannot have surgery by the time they are diagnosed now. Approximately 20% of dogs diagnosed with TCC will already have metastasis (spread) at the time of diagnosis, so earlier detection could allow treatment before spread occurs. Smaller tumors are more likely to respond to treatment as well, so earlier intervention will result in better treatment outcomes.
If the test results are negative, it allows us to focus on other treatment options.
If your dog is one of the breeds at risk of TCC, or if your dog has urinary tract symptoms that won’t go away with treatment, speak with your veterinarian about this simple, non-invasive test. If you have additional questions, please contact Dr. Beck or her nurse Erin at 318-797-5522.