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Assessment of Tonsillar Metastasis as Standard Staging Examination in Dogs with Primary Oral Tumors


To evaluate the incidence of tonsillar metastasis based on histopathology in dogs with various types of malignant oral tumors.


Squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas are common types of oral tumors in dogs. While canine oral squamous cell carcinomas and oral melanomas both are known to metastasize to the tonsil, the incidence of tonsillar metastasis has not been reported in veterinary medicine yet. We do know that primary tonsillar tumors such as tonsillar squamous cell carcinoma can (SCC) behave very aggressively and are also a highly metastatic disease. The prognosis for canine tonsillar SCC is poor, and tonsil tumors, whether primary or metastatic from an oral tumor, generally behave very aggressively. Therefore, an assessment of tonsillar metastasis in dogs with oral tumors will be an important factor for determining the overall prognosis.  


  • Dogs of any age, weight, sex, or breed who have a biopsy-confirmed diagnosis of a malignant primary oral tumor in the gingiva (gums)
  • Dogs must be a good candidate for undergoing general anesthesia and biopsy procedures based on physical examination, baseline bloodwork and thoracic radiographs prior to the enrollment of this clinical trial. 


  • Major concurrent disease that would make anesthesia unsafe
  • Dogs with benign oral tumors
  • Dogs with primary tonsillar tumors or primary oral tumors extending to the tonsil. Tumors must be at least 1 cm away from the tonsil.
  • The primary oral tumor measures less than 1 cm
  •  Dogs with tumors of the lip, tongue, or buccal mucosa

Study Design

Dogs undergoing complete staging of a malignant primary oral tumor at the Animal Cancer Care and Research Center in Roanoke, VA will be evaluated for this study.

  1. Staging examination:
    The minimum diagnostics of complete blood count, serum biochemical analysis, fine needle aspiration of bilateral mandibular lymph node, three-view thoracic radiographs, and computed tomography (CT) of the head /neck, thorax and abdomen are required to be included in this study. These are the standard staging procedures for dogs with oral cancer, and are not part of the research study.
  2. Bilateral tonsillar and primary oral tumor biopsy:
    Under general anesthesia, we will perform a thorough oropharyngeal examination, tonsillar assessment, and right and left tonsillar and primary oral tumor biopsies. The biopsy tissues will be submitted to board-certified pathologists. This biopsy will be done specifically for this study. The results of this biopsy will be shared with you, and they may help to guide treatment planning for your dog.


Participants will receive a CT scan, primary tumor and bilateral tonsillar biopsy procedures, histopathology, anesthesia, and oral pain medications at no cost. Owners will be responsible for all other medical fees related to the diagnosis and treatment of their dog’s cancer. 


Mindy Quigley, Clinical Trials Coordinator
Office Phone: 540-231-1363 | Email:

Dr. Keiko Murakami, Medical Oncology
Phone: (540) 526-2300 Email:

If your query is urgent, please call the Animal Cancer Care and Research Center on (540) 526-2300.

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