Defining the relevance of surgical margins. Part two: Strategies to improve prediction of recurrence risk

Vet Comp Oncol. 2023 Jun;21(2):145-158. doi: 10.1111/vco.12881. Epub 2023 Feb 15.


Due to the complex nature of tumour biology and the integration between host tissues and molecular processes of the tumour cells, a continued reliance on the status of the microscopic cellular margin should not remain our only determinant of the success of a curative-intent surgery for patients with cancer. Based on current evidence, relying on a purely cellular focus to provide a binary indication of treatment success can provide an incomplete interpretation of potential outcome. A more holistic analysis of the cancer margin may be required. If we are to move ahead from our current situation - and allow treatment plans to be more intelligently tailored to meet the requirements of each individual tumour - we need to improve our utilisation of techniques that either improve recognition of residual tumour cells within the surgical field or enable a more comprehensive interrogation of tumour biology that identifies a risk of recurrence. In the second article in this series on defining the relevance of surgical margins, the authors discuss possible alternative strategies for margin assessment and evaluation in the canine and feline cancer patient. These strategies include considering adoption of the residual tumour classification scheme; intra-operative imaging systems including fluorescence-guided surgery, optical coherence tomography and Raman spectroscopy; molecular analysis and whole transcriptome analysis of tissues; and the development of a biologic index (nomogram). These techniques may allow evaluation of individual tumour biology and the status of the resection margin in ways that are different to our current techniques. Ultimately, these techniques seek to better define the risk of tumour recurrence following surgery and provide the surgeon and patient with more confidence in margin assessment.

Keywords: genetics; pathology; small animal; surgical oncology; tumour biology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases* / surgery
  • Cats
  • Dog Diseases* / surgery
  • Dogs
  • Margins of Excision
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / veterinary
  • Neoplasm, Residual / pathology
  • Neoplasm, Residual / veterinary