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Our Research

Our research is to understand what causes cancer and what drives its behaviors, turning that knowledge into better treatments and, ultimately, fewer cases of cancer in animals and in humans. Through innovative research that is relevant and responsive to the needs of the people we serve and their companion animal family members, we are determined to achieve our vision.


Basic immunology:

In the past, it was believed that immune cells remained inactive when not receiving signals. However, we discovered that there are mechanisms that regulate these signals to prevent improper activation. We have since investigated how these mechanisms relate to immune problems in diabetes and cancer and how different environments within tumors affect immune system activation.


Comparative cancer biology and genomics:

By studying dogs, we found that their classification into purebred or mixed breeds could help us identify hereditary factors that contribute to cancer risk. In certain types of cancer, we have observed similar genetic mutations in dogs and humans. However, our most recent data tell us that in most cases, tumors of dogs and tumors of humans that occur in specific organs or tissues are convergent diseases. In other words, the primary cause for the tumors is different, but the eventual appearance, and sometimes the behavior of the tumors is similar (like bird wings and bat wings!)


Pre-clinical, diagnostic, and clinical development:

We have used laboratory and companion animal models to develop new methods for diagnosing and treating cancer and autoimmune diseases. For example, we found that small bits of material released from dying cells, called apoptotic bodies, can enhance the immune response against tumors. We have also created tests to predict tumor prognosis and response to therapy. Our work has progressed from the laboratory to clinical trials in companion animals. Additionally, we have explored various approaches for cancer immunotherapy, such as using specific proteins to activate the immune system or blocking checkpoints that limit immune response. We have also focused on developing blood-based diagnostics for early cancer detection and personalized therapy.


Cancer immunotherapy:

Using our knowledge of pathology and immunology, we have contributed to the development of different strategies for cancer immunotherapy. These include using specific proteins to break down the barriers that suppress the immune system so it can activate when we need it to, using viruses to stimulate an anti-tumor immune response, and using bacteria to deliver therapeutic proteins. We have also explored the use of antibodies and drugs to enhance the immune system's ability to recognize and attack cancer cells.


Advances in comparative sarcoma:

In our research on sarcomas, we have identified similarities and differences in the genetic makeup of malignant vascular sarcomas and osteosarcomas in dogs and humans. Our studies include not only characterizing changes in the DNA sequence, but also in other factors that modify the 3-dimensional architecture of DNA and in the programs that result from those changes. Even though there are some major differences in the mutations found in human tumors and in dog tumors, in the end, there appears to be strong evolutionary pressures to achieve common patterns of organization that allow us to distinguish a bone tumor, for example, from a vascular tumor. And the cellular programs that achieve these distinct patterns are where the commonalities between human tumors and dog tumors exist.


Engineering in biology and medicine:

We have started exploring the field of engineering in biology and medicine to develop tools for better diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases. Our contributions include the development of a diagnostic breath sensor device and the study of devices that enhance the immune system's ability to recognize and fight tumors. Additionally, we have investigated the use of magnetic nanowires to create biomarkers and therapeutic agents for cancer and other diseases.



For publications in the National Library of Medicine (PubMed) from Dr. Modiano's group, visit the site here .

For publications in Google Scholar from Dr. Modiano's group, visit the site here.


Note: The text in this section includes editing for readability by the OpenAI tool, ChatGPT. The Modiano Lab is responsible for the content and accuracy of all the information on this website.