Monday, March 28, 2011

Dog Have Cancer? You Can Help With Research

Does your dog have cancer? Then you can help with cancer research that will help both dogs and humans.

Did you know that for dogs aged 10 years and older, the cause of death of nearly half dogs in this age group is cancer?

The Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium is a newly formed group that aims to study naturally occurring cancers in dogs to better understand why they happen in both dogs and people.

Since dogs have a high incidence of cancer they make good study subjects for cancer research. Many of the cancers that are rare in humans are quite common in dogs. Therefore, it is anticipated that the findings will benefit both dogs and humans.

In this study, all that is required for most dogs are cheeks swabs. A blood sample will be requested for some dogs. For a few dogs a tumor sample from a surgery will also be collected. Samples will be collected with the consent of both owners and vets. It is easy to sign up and participate.

The majority of samples will be subjected to DNA and RNA analysis.

The study will initially focus mainly on sarcomas, which are cancers of connective tissues, such as bone, cartilage and fat. Later, it will be extended to look at other cancers and health problems.

The first targets are hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, malignant histiocytosis and oral (mouth) melanoma.

The studies started with hemangiosarcoma, which is rare in humans but common in dogs. There is no known treatment for this cancer of the blood vessels and spleen.

The Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) began studying Clumber Spaniels, which have a high incidence of hemangiosarcoma. These studies are in association with the Clumber Spaniel Health Foundation and American Kennel Club. DNA and RNA from the Spaniels is being analyzed to see if there is a genetic marker for the disease, that can help determine the origin of the cancer, and to help with a test so that a breeding program can reduce the level of hemangiosarcoma in Clumber Spaniels and other particularly susceptible breeds such as Golden Retriever and German Shepherd.

The scope of the studies was expanded and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and VARI created the Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium, to oversee the studies.

The studies are a public-private program. In addition to TGen and VARI, other entities currently involved include the National Cancer institute (part of the National Institutes of Health), University of Pennsylvania, Michigan State University, PetSmart and Hill's Pet Nutrition. Both PetSmart and Hill's Pet Nutrition gave $500,000 each. Funding also comes from a $4.3 million federal stimulus grant.

To publicize the effort and to start collecting samples the 2 dogs, 2000 miles campaign was launched. Two Great Pyrenees, Hudson and Murphy with their owner Luke, walked from Austin, TX to Boston, going through 16 states. The walk was planned after their "pack mate" Malcolm died of osteosarcoma.

If your dog has cancer, (whatever the type) think about signing your dog up. There is a simple online form at Canine Cancer Consortium and then you will receive an envelope containing a form, for information about your dog and to give your consent, and some swabs in the mail.

All you need to do is fill in a form and spend a few seconds taking cheek swabs, and then put the prepaid envelope in the mail. It is simple and could help with developing treatments for treating cancers in dogs and their owners.

Do it today.

Judith Airey PhD. is a biomedical researcher with a wide range of interests including health, both dog and human. She has a website about dog health and well being


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