Study to Develop Blood Biomarkers of Feline Cancer

Cornell Veterinary School researchers look for less invasive method of identifying cancer spread

Cancer is a leading cause of death in cats, with tumors in the mammary gland, mouth, and skin being the most common. Currently, we rely on surgical removal of the tumor or a biopsy for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options. Since this procedure often requires anesthesia, we would like to find a way to use a simple blood sample to provide these answers.

This technique is performed in humans because tumors release biomarkers in the blood called circulating tumor cells (CTCs). These cells enter the blood stream from the original tumor and begin to appear before the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Higher CTC numbers are associated with cancer spread, faster disease progression, and a poorer prognosis. CTCs can also play a role in determining the type of cancer treatment for the patient. In human medicine, these tests are used to help predict survival in patients with metastatic breast, colorectal, or prostate cancer.

To date, there are no published studies on CTC detection in cats, so the goal of Cornell’s study is to develop tools needed for use in future tests designed to detect CTCs in the blood of cats with cancer.

The researchers are looking for cats of any age who are having a biopsy or tumor removal for a suspected or confirmed carcinoma. A blood sample along with a sample of the tumor removed during surgery is all that is needed.

If your cat is having a biopsy and you’re interested in helping, discuss the option with your own veterinarian, then email the clinical trials coordinator at