Golden retrievers are highly susceptible to cancers arising in the blood, lymphatic, and vascular systems. Dr. Matthew Breen, a professor of genomics at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is collaborating with scientists at the University of Minnesota, the Broad Institute in Massachusetts and Uppsala University in Sweden to find out why. The research findings may benefit humans because the genes involved in cancer are often the same in dogs and people.
The three-year project will be funded by a $1 million grant from the Golden Retriever Foundation and Morris Animal Foundation. The canine cancer study is formally titled "Discovery and Characterization of Heritable and Somatic Cancer Mutations in Golden Retrievers," or the MADGiC Project (Making Advanced Discoveries in Golden Cancers).
The researchers’ goal is to discover the genes and genetic changes that lead to about one in five golden retrievers getting hemangiosarcoma, a rare, rapidly growing cancer of the cells that form blood vessels, and about one in eight golden retrievers contracting lymphoma, a cancer of a part of the immune system called the lymphatic system. In addition, the scientists will determine why golden retrievers are predisposed to the cancers, how the risk could be reduced, and whether DNA tests could aid in diagnosis and treatment. They will also study the mutations that occur in the tumors and their susceptibility to chemotherapy to identify the treatments most effective against the cancers.
In addition to Dr. Breen’s genomics laboratory within NC State’s Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research, other top canine cancer researchers involved in the study include Dr. Jaime Modiano, professor of oncology and comparative medicine with the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Masonic Cancer Center, and Dr. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, director of the Vertebrate Genome Biology Program at the Broad Institute, and a professor of comparative genomics at Uppsala University in Sweden.
“Already we have shown that several human and canine cancers share remarkable similarities in their genetic makeup,” says Dr. Breen, who also is a genetics researcher at the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This new study provides a ‘golden’ opportunity to accelerate these studies to the next level. Data that emerge from this study should offer new insight into cancer predisposition and progression in dogs, and may have far reaching impact on advancing our understanding of human cancers. Once again, man’s best friend is there for us, right by our side.”
Owners of golden retrievers diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma can support this research by donating a small tumor or blood sample. Blood samples from healthy golden retrievers older than 12 years of age also are needed. For more information about how to make sample donations to Dr. Breen’s lab, visit www.breenlab.
The Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research (CCMTR) is a community of more than 100 research scientists from five North Carolina State University colleges. These investigators are involved in collaborative ”One Health” studies with government, private, and other academic researchers to advance knowledge and practical applications that improve the health and well being of people and animals.
Posted June 3, 2010