8 August 2000

Ground-breaking studies of bone cancer in dogs have earned two prestigious awards for a University of Queensland PhD student at the World Small Animal Veterinary Conference held recently in Amsterdam.

Panayiotis Loukopoulos of the Veterinary Pathology and Anatomy Department received the only research awards made at the 3000-delegate conference.

He won the Resident and Research Award for the best paper delivered by a young researcher, on the topic of osteosarcoma. This is the most common bone tumour and one of the most aggressive tumours in dogs, particularly large and giant breeds.

Canine osteosarcarma is also used as the study model for human osteosarcoma.

Mr Loukopoulos' study looked at p53, the most frequently altered gene in tumours in a wide range of species.

"It is one of only a few studies to describe a relationship between the p53 index of any tumour and certain pathological parameters such as the tumour subtype," he said.

"From this study, we hope to provide a more sophisticated approach to the diagnosis and prognosis of osseous tumours."

Mr Loukopoulos also won first prize for the best poster for work by his research group to develop a better prognostic indicator for osteosarcoma. This would allow a more sophisticated treatment of the disease in canine patients.

He said metastasis (the transfer of disease from one part of the body to another) was the principal cause of treatment failure and mortality in osteosarcoma as well as in other malignancies.

"A growing body of evidence shows that human malignancies use matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in order to grow locally and establish metastases," he said.

"MMPs are a family of proteolytic enzymes which collectively are capable of degrading all components of the extracellular matrix.

"Our group has shown the presence of MMPs in canine and feline tumours and demonstrated their significance in the advancement of these tumours for the first time.

"Broadening our understanding of MMPs shows enormous promise for improving the quality of life and prolonging survival of veterinary patients suffering from this devastating disease, or other tumours where metastasis is of concern.

"With current therapy still relatively unsuccessful the use of MMP inhibitors appears to offer the potential for both an increased patient survival time and an improved quality of life.

"The studies allow a substantially improved evaluation of veterinary cancer patients and provide baseline information necessary for the design of clinical trials targeting MMPs."

Mr Loukopoulos, from Greece, is currently studying canine bone tumours for his PhD supervised by Associate Professor John Thornton and Professor Wayne Robinson. He received the Sister Janet Mylonas Memorial Scholarship from the University in 1997.

In 1998, a study he undertook with Mr William Reynolds, a former lecturer in veterinary clinical studies at the University won an Australia-wide award for research to establish the best technique for supplying oxygen to dogs in emergencies.

Published in the Australian Veterinary Practitioner, the study was recognised by the Australian Small Animal Veterinary Association. The work was completed while Mr Loukopoulos was studying on an Australian-European scholarship awarded by the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee.

Media: Further information, Panayiotis Loukopoulos telephone 07 3371 0594/ 0411 409 888 email: p.loukopoulos@mailbox.uq.edu.au

Enquiries can also be directed to communications@mailbox.uq.edu.au