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Canine Foundations Support NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine Researcher

Matthew Breen, a professor of genomics at North Carolina State University, is a member of a collaborative, multi-institutional team that received a $1.1 million grant from the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) and the Golden Retriever Foundation (GRF) to improve detection and treatment of certain cancers in Golden Retrievers.

Other team members are Jaime Modiano of the University of Minnesota and Kerstin Lindblad-Toh of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. The scientists have collaborated on significant canine cancer studies for several years and the funding will support continued investigation.

The title of the funded study is “Developing Markers to Diagnose and Guide Cancer Treatment in Golden Retrievers Based on Newly Discovered Heritable and Acquired Mutations.”

In making the joint grant, the foundations noted the team’s previous “ground breaking” discoveries related to lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma (a tumor of cells that line blood vessels). The cancers are major health problems in Golden Retrievers, causing both suffering and premature death.

“This grant is an exciting step forward in the field of cancer research for dogs,” said Shila Nordone, AKC-CHF’s chief scientific officer. “While the study will primarily focus on Golden Retrievers, the project emphasizes a better understanding of the mechanism of how cancer begins and spreads, resulting in research that will be applicable across all breeds of dogs.”

Dr. Nordone also noted that the results of the investigation —like all canine cancer research—will have a One Health application and will assist oncologists who study the development and spread of human cancers.

Dr. Breen and his colleagues previously identified regions of the Golden Retriever genome that contain genetic heritable risk factors for lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma and identified the somatic mutations in tumors that occur in both cancers, some of which are linked to duration of remission when treated with standard of care.

The researchers believe that their findings indicate a few heritable genetic factors account for as much as 50% of the risk for these cancers. These inherited risk factors and tumor mutations point to pathways that have been implicated in the development of lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma.  A better understanding of the process will help in the creation of targeted therapies.

Through the joint CHF-GRF funding, the investigators will identify precise mutations for the heritable genetic risk factors and will validate markers or mutations that can be used to determine risk at the heritable loci in a large independent population of Golden Retrievers from the U.S. and from Europe.

According to the announcement, the ultimate goal is to develop robust risk prediction tools and an accompanying DNA test. As with most genetic-based studies, data are expected to be transferable across breeds, enabling the future search for cancer risk factors in all dogs to be rapid and focused.

The CHF-GRF simultaneously announced funding a study involving researchers from the University of Missouri, Colorado State, and Texas A&M who will investigate changes in lymphoma cells to develop biomarkers of each class of lymphoma, and in turn, identify new therapy targets for affected Golden Retrievers.