Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles led the research and development of the cancer screening tests for dogs.

After leading the research and development of VolitionRx Limited’s (Volition) Nu.Q Vet Cancer Screening Test, the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS) will now offer the newly launched, easy-to-use, cost-effective cancer test through the CVMBS’ Gastrointestinal (GI) Laboratory.

Volition, a Belgium-based multi-national epigenetics company that works to develop blood tests that help diagnose a range of cancers and other diseases in both humans and animals, recently announced the launch of the Nu.Q Vet Cancer Screening Test, its first product, in the United States.

The test is now available to veterinarians in North America for use during annual wellness checks of older dogs for cases where there is a suspicion of cancer, or for younger dogs in breeds with a high risk for developing cancer in their lifetimes.

“The work of Volition and Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles and her team at the CVMBS’ Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) that has led to this extraordinary achievement will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on dogs, their owners, and the veterinarians who serve them both,” said Dr. John R. August, CVMBS dean. “The college is thrilled to be able to continue to support those efforts by being among the first to offer this low-cost testing through our GI Laboratory; as with human cancers, early diagnosis is key, and this testing will not only save dogs’ lives but will offer dogs a better quality of life through earlier treatment.”

The launch represents a significant development in veterinary medicine. Until the release of the Nu.Q Vet Cancer Screening Test, there had been no accurate, simple and affordable cancer screening tests available in veterinary medicine, according to Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles, CVMBS professor and Dr. Fred A. and Vola N. Palmer Chair in Comparative Oncology, who also serves as chief medical officer of Volition Veterinary DiagnELostics Development LLC.

“Unlike in humans, where routine cancer screening is relatively commonplace, there are few tests for animals. We are changing this today, with the launch of the Nu.Q Vet Cancer Screening Test,” Wilson-Robles said. “This simple, low-cost blood test can help streamline the diagnostic process and shorten the path to diagnosis thereby allowing treatment (be that chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery) to be initiated earlier, even before symptoms appear, increasing the chance of the dog’s survival and its quality of life.

“I am so looking forward to speaking to as many key opinion leaders and veterinarians themselves over the coming months to let them know about this fantastic new way to help dogs be diagnosed and treated,” she said.

Cancer is the most common cause of death in dogs over the age of two years in the U.S. Up to 50% of all dogs over the age of 10 develop cancer in their lifetime. Currently, dogs suspected of having cancer are required to undergo a variety of diagnostic tests that may be expensive, time consuming and/or invasive.

“The GI Lab is pleased and honored to serve as the launching laboratory for this new, simple screening tool for cancer in dogs. Dr. Wilson-Robles’ work has shown impressive specificity of this new test, allowing veterinarians a simple and affordable modality to check dogs for possible cancer,” said Dr. Joerg Steiner, Texas A&M Distinguished University Professor, Dr. Mark Morris Chair of Small Animal Gastroenterology and Nutrition, and director of the GI Lab.

The Nu.Q Vet Cancer Screening Test measures and identifies circulating nucleosomes, which are early markers of cancer, from a simple blood sample. At 100% specificity, the test has been shown to detect 74% of lymphomas and 89% of hemangiosarcomas, two of the most common cancers in dogs that comprise approximately one-third of canine cancers.

The benefit for the veterinarian, the pet owner and the dog is a streamlined diagnostic process. It delivers a simpler, faster and less-invasive diagnosis with the goal of providing quality of life to the pet and valuable information to inform the clinical decision-making process.

“The launch of the Nu.Q Vet Cancer Screening Test is a stand out moment in our 10 year history and an extremely important milestone for our company. It demonstrates that our Nu.Q platform has now attained both the reliability and reproducibility to launch in an independent laboratory,” said Cameron Reynolds, Volition chief executive officer.

“After setting up our veterinary subsidiary just over a year ago, the combination of experience and expertise of the Volition Veterinary and Texas A&M teams has enabled this incredible speed to market, especially considering the pandemic. This is a hugely important test that we hope will fundamentally change how veterinarians manage cancer detection in dogs.”

During its initial launch phase, Volition is focused on driving awareness of the test not only across the specialist oncology community nationwide, but also the general practice veterinarians in Texas through a series of activities, including a webinar featuring Wilson-Robles and Dr. Sue Ettinger.

For more information about the Nu.Q Vet Cancer Screening visit the Volition website. For more information on testing at the Texas A&M GI Lab, visit the lab’s website.