Connections between human and canine brain tumors

The molecular counterpart of aggressive MenG C meningiomas found in canines.

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Researchers from Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS), Baylor College of Medicine, and Texas Children’s Hospital found that the most common type of brain tumor meningiomas in humans and dogs are genetically similar. 

This discovery helps doctors to classify aggressive tumors in both humans and dogs. This also allows doctors to work together in human and animal medicine. Only now, due to the lack of reliable and viable experimental models, is it challenging to study this tumor.

Dr. Akash Patel, an associate professor of neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine and principal investigator at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (Duncan NRI) at Texas Children’s Hospital, said, “The discovery that is naturally occurring canine tumors closely resemble their human counterparts opens numerous avenues for exploring the biology of these challenging tumors. It also provides opportunities for developing and studying novel treatments applicable to humans and dogs.”

The study, led by Patel, Dr. Jonathan Levine from VMBS, and Dr. Tiemo Klisch from Baylor College of Medicine, was published on Feb. 20 in the journal Acta Neuropathologica. Dr. Beth Boudreau, also from VMBS, played a vital role in the research. They analyzed 62 meningiomas from 27 dog breeds and found that these tumors are similar to those in humans. This is the most extensive study ever done on the gene expression of these tumors in dogs.

This discovery builds on previous research conducted by Patel’s team and work by Levine and Boudreau on gliomas, another type of brain tumor. In 2019, by analyzing- RNA, Patel and others at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital categorized human meningiomas into three subtypes: Meng A, B, and C. This classification system is more accurate in predicting patient outcomes than traditional tissue sample analysis.

Levine explained, “Because RNA shows how a tumor’s genes activate, it allows researchers to accurately predict how a tumor will behave — whether it will be aggressive or if it’s going to respond to certain therapies.”

In 2020, Levine, Boudreau, and their teams discovered genetic similarities between gliomas, another common type of brain tumor in humans and dogs. With this knowledge, Patel contacted Levine to learn more about applying these findings to study meningiomas. Levine provided Patel with canine tumor samples and clinical data. Patel isolated RNA from these samples, revealing similar patterns to human tumors.

Researchers have connected tumors in humans and dogs, prepare the way for clinical trials, though planning and funding may take years. The aim is to benefit human and animal medicine by offering unique therapies to dog owners through clinical trials. These trials will also inform the next steps for human treatments.

A separate group of researchers from the University of California, Davis, reached similar conclusions about meningiomas in dogs and people. Both groups are eager to collaborate on tumor treatments for both species. Levine sees great potential for collaboration among teams from Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas Children’s, and the University of California. This collaboration could lead to faster patient enrollment and more robust findings.

Currently, researchers are analyzing data from both studies to identify potential new therapies. The genetic data gathered provides a solid foundation for this effort, setting the stage for further advancements.

Journal reference:

  1. Harmanci, A.S., Boudreau, B., Lau, S. et al. Aggressive human MenG C meningiomas have a molecular counterpart in canines. Acta Neuropathologica. DOI: 10.1007/s00401-024-02692-3.
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