Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and VolitionRx Limited (Volition) have partnered to develop and test early cancer screenings for animals, namely dogs.

As part of the partnership, A&M veterinary oncologists are testing Volition’s Nu.Q, a set of tests for biomarkers in the blood. Volition is an international company that has experience with cancer screenings on humans. The company has recently sought to expand into other fields and markets, looking towards the U.S. market through the veterinary field.

A&M revealed the partnership on Oct. 25, with Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, hosting the signing at A&M. According to the college’s website, Green has actively sought out collaborations and innovations in the veterinary field.

According to the Volition website, cancer is associated with abnormal levels of uniquely structured nucleosomes found within the blood. Patients that may have malignant tumours could be identified using the Nu.Q tests. However, doctors would have to confirm the analysis with follow-up procedures.

Associate professor and Dr. Fred A. Palmer and Vola N. Palmer Chair in Comparative Oncology Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles is set to lead the research. Wilson-Robles said that the partnership would look into transferring a process used for humans unto animals.

“One of the great things is that Volition sort of pioneered the way in Europe for liquid biopsy techniques for human cancer,” Wilson-Robles said. “We’re in the process of trying to apply those same liquid biopsy techniques to veterinary medicine, which would allow us to run diagnostics that traditionally have been pretty invasive and required heavy sedation or anesthesia and [are] costly and make them a simple blood test.”

Wilson-Robles said she hopes to distinguish inflammation from cancer through testing and clear any confusion between the two. She said the hope is cancer is different enough from any other disease that the Nu.Q can have a high percentage rate of correct diagnostics in veterinary cases.

“Specific nucleosomes can be associated with [a] specific disease,” Wilson-Robles said. “Inflammation and cancer generally have higher levels of nucleosomes than others. What we’d like to do is develop some basic general assets that try to tell you cancer versus inflammation or other diseases and then provide additional panels which may be able to give more information.”

A&M also receives an equity stake in Volition Veterinary Diagnostics Development LLC as part of the arrangement. The stake in the Volition subsidiary company, a company that is owned by a parent company, is 12.5 percent according to the Volition website.

Jeremy Kenny, program manager for veterinary innovation and entrepreneurship with the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said the Volition veterinary subsidiary company would like to enter the market soon. The hope is that the subsidiary company will have a product ready.

“They’re creating a veterinary subsidiary company,” Kenny said. “The next step is the new veterinary company [will be] creating the product. I believe maybe for early next year, they [will] start selling tests.”

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