Canine bladder tumors, most commonly transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) or urethelial carcinoma, have long been a frustrating disease to diagnose. Diagnosis can be expensive or invasive. There is potential risk for tumor seeding in the process (spreading cancer around with a needle or biopsy instrument). But, there is good news! There is a new, simple diagnostic test called the CADET(SM) BRAF Mutation Detection Assay by Sentinel Biomedical. This test can be done on a free catch urine sample from dogs looking for a mutation in the BRAF gene. It is 85% sensitive in diagnosing transitional cell carcinoma, which means it misses 15% of cases. It is highly specific and will never be normal in a cancer free dog. It can be run on urine samples that have concurrent infection or blood present.
Dogs with bladder cancer commonly present with symptoms consistent with a urinary tract infection, such as straining to urinate, needing to go out more often, accidents in the house, or blood in the urine. They are often treated for an infection for weeks to months before further diagnostics are performed. It can be difficult to obtain an early diagnosis and many tests are invasive and/ or expensive. Abdominal ultrasound can help visualize tumors, but cannot differentiate benign from malignant disease. Often tumors are not in easy locations to biopsy and scoping can be limited by availability of equipment, patient gender, and cost. Now there is a test that can screen for disease without these other diagnostics. Ultrasound is still helpful, but this test can help avoid the need for a biopsy.
The ideal scenarios to use this test include 1) dogs with chronic lower urinary tract disease, 2) dogs with a mass, polyp or thickening found in the urinary tract on abdominal ultrasound, 3) monitoring before and after surgical removal of a TCC, and 4) screening at-rick breeds, such as Scottish terriers. If you have a patient that you suspect has TCC or prostate carcinoma, I strongly recommend using this test!