Naturally-Occurring Invasive Urothelial Carcinoma in Dogs, a Unique Model to Drive Advances in Managing Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer in Humans

Deborah W. Knapp, Deepika Dhawan, José A. Ramos-Vara, Timothy L. Ratliff, Gregory M. Cresswell, Sagar Utturkar, Breann C. Sommer, Christopher M. Fulkerson, Noah M. Hahn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


There is a great need to improve the outlook for people facing urinary bladder cancer, especially for patients with invasive urothelial carcinoma (InvUC) which is lethal in 50% of cases. Improved outcomes for patients with InvUC could come from advances on several fronts including emerging immunotherapies, targeted therapies, and new drug combinations; selection of patients most likely to respond to a given treatment based on molecular subtypes, immune signatures, and other characteristics; and prevention, early detection, and early intervention. Progress on all of these fronts will require clinically relevant animal models for translational research. The animal model(s) should possess key features that drive success or failure of cancer drugs in humans including tumor heterogeneity, genetic-epigenetic crosstalk, immune cell responsiveness, invasive and metastatic behavior, and molecular subtypes (e.g., luminal, basal). Experimental animal models, while essential in bladder cancer research, do not possess these collective features to accurately predict outcomes in humans. These key features, however, are present in naturally-occurring InvUC in pet dogs. Canine InvUC closely mimics muscle-invasive bladder cancer in humans in cellular and molecular features, molecular subtypes, immune response patterns, biological behavior (sites and frequency of metastasis), and response to therapy. Thus, dogs can offer a highly relevant animal model to complement other models in research for new therapies for bladder cancer. Clinical treatment trials in pet dogs with InvUC are considered a win-win-win scenario; the individual dog benefits from effective treatment, the results are expected to help other dogs, and the findings are expected to translate to better treatment outcomes in humans. In addition, the high breed-associated risk for InvUC in dogs (e.g., 20-fold increased risk in Scottish Terriers) offers an unparalleled opportunity to test new strategies in primary prevention, early detection, and early intervention. This review will provide an overview of canine InvUC, summarize the similarities (and differences) between canine and human InvUC, and provide evidence for the expanding value of this canine model in bladder cancer research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1493
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
StatePublished - Jan 21 2020


  • animal models
  • bladder cancer
  • cancer prevention
  • dog
  • immunotherapy
  • targeted therapy
  • transitional cell carcinoma
  • urothelial carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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