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Texas A&M, Volition on a mission to save man’s best friend

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What if there's a tool for early detection of cancer in dogs?

Just as it is with humans, cancer is the No. 1 cause of illness and death in dogs.

Data shows that 25 percent of more than 55 million dogs in the US will develop cancer at some stage of their life. This accounts for an estimated 4.2 million new dog cancer diagnoses each year.

But despite the high incidence rate and technological advancements in the pet health space, there are currently no accurate, simple or affordable cancer screening tests available in veterinary medicine.

In fact, the availability of historical data on canine cancer remains largely lacking as there are no databases large enough or comprehensive enough to provide an accurate conclusion on cancer rates.

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A partnership between Texas A&M University and Belgian life sciences company VolitionRx Limited, however, hopes to change the fate of man’s best friend.

Through the partnership, veterinary oncologists at the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and Volition will explore the use of the firm’s Nu.Q diagnostic cancer tests to identify early signs of dog cancer.

Typically used on humans, the Nu.Q is a suite of routine blood tests that looks for very early or ‘nucleosomic’ markers of cancer. Nucleosomics is the practice of identifying and measuring nucleosomes in the bloodstream or other bodily fluid to identify if there is a disease is present.

“The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences is excited to be working with Volition to develop tests for the early detection of cancer and other diseases in animals,” said Texas A&M’s Dr. Eleanor M. Green.

“The research and clinical trials conducted by CVM’s veterinary oncologists work on the cutting-edge of medicine and have benefited both humans and animals. 

“The goal of this project with Volition is to provide all veterinarians with simple, affordable, routine blood tests that can help identify disease early and improve the lives of both animals and the people who love them.”

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To seal the partnership, both parties inked a Memorandum of Understanding late last month.

As part of the agreement, Associate Professor Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles, Dr. Fred and Vola N. Palmer Chair in Comparative Oncology in the CVM’s Small Animal Clinical Sciences Department will lead the research and development of the veterinary diagnostic tests.

“I am excited to be working with Volition on this project,” Wilson-Robles said. 

“The Nu.Q platform has the potential to change the landscape of veterinary cancer diagnostics provided much needed affordable and reliable screening tests that, to date, simply don’t exist in the veterinary world.”

In addition, the university has also committed to investing in Volition, investing an equity stake of 25 percent in Volition Veterinary Diagnostics Development LLC, a subsidiary of the firm.

“We are delighted to execute these agreements today and are excited to collaborate with Texas A&M, a leading U.S. institution, to develop Nu.Q Vet products,” said Cameron Reynolds, Volition chief executive officer. 

“I and other members of the Volition board and executive team have very much enjoyed the hospitality of Texas A&M and are very impressed with the caliber of personnel and fantastic facilities in the veterinary school.”

Volition is a fast-growing global firm with offices across Texas, London and Singapore in addition to Belgium where its research and development activities are currently centered.