New grant to study cancer in golden retrievers
For immediate release
Contact: Brian Graves, College of Veterinary Medicine, 612-624-6228
U of M veterinarian part of team leading international study
on golden retrievers and cancer
Findings may aid in diagnosis and treatment of cancer in dogs and people
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (June 22, 2010) – Canine cancer scientists at the University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Massachusetts, and Uppsala University in Sweden are teaming up with two animal health foundations to find out why golden retrievers are highly susceptible to cancers arising in the blood, lymphatic, and vascular systems. The scientists believe their findings will benefit dogs as well as humans because the genes involved in cancer are often the same in dogs and people.
This three-year project scheduled to begin this summer will be funded with a $1 million grant from the Golden Retriever Foundation and Morris Animal Foundation. The goal: Identify the genes and describe the 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.
The three scientists leading this project represent the top canine cancer researchers in the world. They include Jaime Modiano, V.M.D., Ph.D., professor of oncology and comparative medicine with the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine and Masonic Cancer Center; Matthew Breen, Ph.D., professor of genomics at North Carolina State University and genetics researcher at the University of North Carolina's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Ph.D., director of the Vertebrate Genome Biology Program at the Broad Institute and professor of comparative genomics at Uppsala University in Sweden.
"Cancer is the number-one disease that can occur spontaneously in both dogs and people," says Modiano. "Because dog breeds are controlled through breeding, because the dog genome is so similar to the human genome, and because dogs are more comparable in size and weight to humans, we can study different types of cancer faster in dogs and more readily apply our findings to people. So in this case, what we learn about hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers could be accurately translated into greater understanding and better treatment of comparable diseases in people."
Besides identifying genes linked to the two cancers, 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 also will study the mutations that occur in the tumors and their susceptibility to chemotherapy to identify the treatments most effective against the cancers.
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, visit www.breenlab.org, www.modianolab.org, or www.dogdna.org.
The College of Veterinary Medicine improves the health and well-being of animals and people by providing high-quality veterinary training, conducting leading-edge research, and delivering innovative veterinary services. Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, is part of the University's Academic Health Center. It is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a comprehensive cancer center for cancer research, treatment, and education.