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Cancer Attributable to Infection?
What we know about the genus Bartonella and its role in the development of hemangiosarcoma in dogs


Edward B. Breitschwerdt, DVM, DACVIM

Running time: 37 mins


The word "cancer" is a nonspecific term and includes a variety of diseases stemming from abnormal cell growth. There are many types of cancer and a number of proposed mechanisms or causes for the development of aberrant cell growth including the association between infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, etc.) and specific cancers.

Hemangiosarcoma is a very aggressive type of cancer with a poor short-term and long-term prognosis. We recently spent some time with Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM, DACVIM - a veterinary internal medicine specialist and researcher at North Carolina State University - who is focused on studying vector borne diseases, with a particular interest in Bartonella spp.

Bartonella spp. are stealth bacterial pathogens. A One Health approach to this emerging infection is defining disease manifestations, establishing the comparative disease pathogenesis for these bacterial pathogens, providing insights into effective treatment regimens, and elucidating strategies to prevent zoonotic disease transmission from animals to humans. 

Dogs and humans develop nearly identical types of pathology when infected with a Bartonella spp. As such, defining the role of these bacteria in dogs with hemangiosarcoma may provide important comparative oncology lessons for veterinary and human medicine. In this presentation Dr. Breitschwerdt will discuss Bartonella spp. and what we know about the relationship between infection with this bacteria and hemangiosarcoma in dogs. Discussion will include:

  • Bartonella lesions that occur in dogs and humans
  • The mechanisms by which bacteria might cause cancer
  • The potential sources of Bartonella spp. exposures and modes of organism transmission to dogs
  • The mechanisms by which Bartonella spp. may contribute to the development of hemangiosarcoma
  • The benefits and limitations of serological, molecular and enrichment culture tests for the diagnosis of bartonellosis in dogs with hemangiosarcoma

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