Mast cell tumors are the most commonly encountered malignant skin tumor in the dog. They account for 16-21% of all cutaneous
tumors and boxers, Boston terriers, Labrador retrievers, beagles and schnauzers are documented to be at increased risk. Alterations
in the c-kit receptor (receptor for growth factor SCF) are noted in many high grade tumors. Histologic grade is highly predictive
Paraneoplastic conditions noted in conjunction with mast cell disease include gastrointestinal ulceration secondary to increased
circulating histamine levels, coagulation abnormalities secondary to heparin levels, and delayed wound healing secondary to
fibroblast suppressor factor released by macrophages recruited by tumor cells.
The clinical appearance of mast cell tumors is extremely variable and this is why every dermal mass, almost without exception,
should be aspirated. Fine needle aspiration cytology is usually sufficient to diagnose a mast cell tumor. The grade of the
tumor cannot be reliably determined without histopathology.
Once a mast cell tumor is identified, the regional lymph node should be aspirated if possible. A CBC, biochemical profile
and urinalysis are recommended to assess the patient's physiologic status. Abdominal radiographs, abdominal ultrasound, and
bone marrow aspirates can also be considered to complete staging. Buffy coat smears are felt to be unreliable in most cases.
Aggressive surgical resection is the treatment of choice. Pre-surgical imaging of the tumor with a CT or MRI may be indicated
to help plan adequate excision. Always submit the sample for histopathologic analysis. The prognosis and indication for
adjuvant chemotherapy will be dictated by the histologic grade. Evaluation of the margins will also affect prognosis and
the indication for adjuvant radiation therapy.
Grade I mast cell tumors usually do not require further therapy as over 90% of those patients will die from other causes.
The more difficult decision is the grade II patient with a marginal resection (margins <5-10 mm). We know that at least 50%
of those cases should be fine without further intervention based on the early studies where surgery was the only modality
applied. We can increase the number to ~90% with the addition of radiation therapy. These findings would indicate there
are roughly 1/3 of cases in which the radiation therapy is highly indicated. It is not often possible to identify which of
the animals that meet the description above will recur and which won't. Recurrence is a negative prognostic variable so the
owner must know that if they wish to be conservative, their prognosis will be more guarded should recurrence occur. Chemotherapy
may also delay the onset of recurrence.
Grade III mast cell tumors, high grade II tumors with marginal resections, or those with positive lymph nodes, should consider
adding chemotherapy to their treatment regimen. Vinblastine, prednisone and CCNU have all demonstrated moderate activity
in canine mast cell disease. Recently toceranib (Palladia) and masitinib were added to the list of single agents with activity.
Reported single agent response rates in the setting of gross disease have been 12-27% for vinblastine, 42% for CCNU, 55% for
masitinib and 43% for toceranib. Response rates improve to the 47-63% range when prednisone is added to vinblastine or CCNU.
Given the significant activity of toceranib and masitinib as a single agent, combination protocols would also be expected
to increase response rates in these drugs.
The interest in tyrosine kinase inhibitors was greatly heightened following the success of imitinab (Gleevec) in the treatment
of human chronic myelogenous leukemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumors. This compound will inhibit KIT, abl and PDGFR.
Understanding that KIT is critical for the development and growth of canine mast cells, and that the prevalence of KIT mutations
is ~25% in grade 2 and 3 canine mast cell tumors, led to the clinical development of toceranib and masitinib in the veterinary
setting. Strong responses can also be noted in animals that don't have KIT mutations indicating that other mechanisms of
actions must also be present. Evidence in toceranib indicates this activity is strongly related to its antiangiogenic effects
via VEGFR and PDGFR inhibition. There is also preliminary evidence that these compounds are effective radiosensitizers.
As you can tell, we've only scratched the surface of how best to use these compounds.
All kinase inhibitors have potential toxicities. In general the more receptors they inhibit, the more potential for toxicity.
Gastrointestinal side effects are the most common dose limiting toxicity. It is very important to treat these early and aggressively.
It is currently recommended that patients are rechecked at weekly intervals in the beginning of their treatment as dose modifications
and concominant medications are almost always required. Life threatening toxicities are rare, and early recognition of potential
problems is critical.