The importance of research on GI lymphoma and IBD and how to participate in the Basepaws study
—Nicole Martell-Moran, DVM, MPH, DABVP (feline)
“Gastrointestinal disease is prevalent among our feline patients, causing a great deal of concern among their owners and the veterinarians that care for them. Currently, our ability to diagnose either condition is difficult without the use of procedures to obtain biopsies of the intestines. At times, we can only give clients a presumptive diagnosis of either IBD or lymphoma based on interpretation of imaging in combination with clinical signs. Any other tools at our disposal to help clients understand that a disease may be the cause for their cat’s GI signs is invaluable. Providing a quick, non-invasive method to demonstrate to owners that chronic GI signs may be associated with a serious yet treatable disease has the potential to change the way we address the chronically vomiting cat.”
Content submitted by Basepaws, a dvm360® Strategic Alliance Partner
The Animal Cancer Foundation indicates that cancer, typically a disease of aging pets, is one of the leading causes of death in dogs and cats.1 The foundation also highlights the importance of early detection for improving pet health outcomes and quality of life.
Pet health screening tools for early disease detection
Basepaws is a pet health company with a mission to provide pet parents and veterinarians with actionable knowledge for making empowered, proactive healthcare decisions. They collaborate with an active citizen science community of pet parents, as well as veterinary professionals and industry partners on groundbreaking research that supports the development of affordable, easy to use screening tools for the early recognition and treatment of disease.
The company’s research aims to address a range of unmet needs as they relate to the diagnosis of pet diseases, such as in the case of gastrointestinal (GI) lymphoma, which is a notoriously hard-to-diagnose disease often confused with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Lymphoma is the most frequently diagnosed type of feline cancer, and lymphoma of the GI tract is the most common form seen in cats and dogs.1 Symptoms typical of GI lymphoma such as weight loss, decreased (and sometimes increased) appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea are also characteristic of IBD, a noncancerous condition which causes chronic irritation and inflammation of the GI tract.
The role of the oral microbiome in GI lymphoma and IBD research
Previous studies have shown that the state of the oral microbiome is associated with both gastrointestinal cancer and IBD in humans.2 Basepaws has conducted a preliminary analysis of oral microbiome samples from cats with a reported diagnosis of IBD against cats reported to have no dental or systemic diseases. These samples were obtained through the company’s citizen science research program, and preliminary results align with findings from clinical studies of IBD in humans that confirm the oral microbiome as a reliable predictor of IBD.
Since it is challenging to accurately distinguish between IBD and GI lymphoma with physical exams and diagnostic procedures (e.g., ultrasounds) alone, a non-invasive and painless alternative such as an oral microbiome screening test holds promise for streamlining diagnosis and implementing treatment that is appropriate and targeted for either IBD or GI lymphoma.
Basepaws clinical research on GI lymphoma and IBD
Basepaws is actively seeking veterinary partners to aid in clinical recruitment for its canine and feline GI lymphoma studies to build off of and validate its preliminary citizen science research findings. The company is collaborating on this project with veterinary partners such as Nicole Martell-Moran, DVM, MPH, DABVP (feline), of The Feline Medical Center in Houston, Texas.3
If you are a veterinary professional in a practice that has a prevalence of feline or canine GI lymphoma and/or IBD cases, Basepaws welcomes the chance to collaborate with you and your team. The genetic and oral microbiome health data from this research could potentially inform the development of new screening tools that more reliably distinguish between GI lymphoma and IBD.
In addition to offering pet parents peace of mind, such a tool could support veterinarians’ efforts to make accurate diagnoses and implement therapeutic interventions that are more appropriate and targeted for either IBD or GI lymphoma. It could potentially be a game changer for veterinarians’ follow through efforts, since an intestinal biopsy—costly for pet parents and invasive for pets—is currently the primary method of confirming IBD versus GI lymphoma. Affordability, convenience, and stress are among the many factors that present a challenge to getting pet parents to follow through with a biopsy.
How to participate
Participation involves following a simple study protocol for collecting an oral swab sample from qualifying patients, filling out basic screening information for each sample, and sharing patients’ clinical records. Compensation is provided for every collected sample that matches particular criteria, and the company will supply the oral swab collection kits for obtaining feline and canine clinical samples.