The molecular signatures of a common brain tumor found to be similar in dogs and humans


A recent multi-institutional collaborative study from the labs of Drs. Akash Patel and Tiemo Klisch at Baylor College of Medicine and Dr. Jonathan Levine at Texas A&M University has found that the molecular features of meningiomas are conserved across species, in dogs and humans. Meningiomas are the most common primary brain tumors in humans and are exceedingly common in household pets like dogs. The study was published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica.

This is the largest study to date of the gene expression profiles of canine meningiomas and opens the potential for future studies using canines and their tissues as a model to advance treatments for both humans and dogs. 

In 2019, Drs. Patel, Klisch, and others at Baylor and Texas Children’s found that meningiomas can be classified into three biologically distinct subtypes - MenG A, B, and C. Of these, MenG C tumors are the most aggressive and often recur despite complete surgery and/or radiation treatment. Thus, this molecular classification — which has since been independently verified – can predict patient outcomes with greater accuracy than the standard histopathologic classification system. 

Until now, the lack of reliable and viable experimental models has been a barrier to understanding the biology of and developing effective treatments for these brain tumors. 

“This study, led by Dr. Akdes Harmanci at Baylor and Dr. Beth Boudreau at Texas A&M, is a culmination of a truly unique collaborative effort of many multidisciplinary experts – neurosurgeons, pathologists, computational scientists, veterinary scientists, and molecular biologists – from multiple institutions who worked together to address this important issue in meningioma biology,” Dr. Levine added. “Our finding that at the histological and molecular level, these meningiomas are alike in humans and dogs could help surmount this problem in the future.” 

“We analyzed gene expression profiles of 62 canine meningiomas from 27 dog breeds using RNA sequencing,” Dr. Klisch said. “Our first important finding from this study was that canine meningiomas can be classified using the same molecular markers that we use for humans. The second is the surprising finding that although man and dogs last shared a common ancestor more than 80 million years ago, the molecular profiles of meningiomas obtained from both species were quite similar.”

"One aspect that has always concerned me is the inherent inaccuracy of animal models in replicating human diseases," expressed Dr. Patel. "This issue is particularly evident in meningioma research. The discovery that naturally occurring canine tumors closely resemble their human counterparts opens numerous avenues for exploring the biology of these challenging tumors. It also provides opportunities for developing and studying novel treatments applicable to both humans and dogs," Dr. Patel emphasized. "Our ongoing collaboration with Drs. Jonathan Levine and Beth Boudreau will play a crucial role in identifying common regulatory mechanisms and drug targets crucial to the development and malignancy of these tumors." 


Others involved in the study were Sean Lau, Shervin Hosseingholi Nouri, Jacob J. Mandel, Hsiang-Chih Lu, and Arif O. Harmanci. They are affiliated with one or more of the following institutions: Baylor College of Medicine, the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital, Texas A&M University, and the University of Health Science Center Houston. The work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and the Roderick D. MacDonald Fund.

Note: Serendipitously, another collaborative group from the University of California made identical observations about canine meningiomas independently and their study has been published in the same journal as well.