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Two Teams Funded to Study Cancer Markers in Golden Retrievers

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Two multi-partner research teams have received new grants totaling nearly $1.5 million from the AKC Canine Health Foundation and the Golden Retriever Foundation (GRF) to search for diagnostic cancer biomarkers and genetic risk predictors in dogs, AKC CHF said on Tuesday.

One of the teams, which includes partners at the University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University, and the Broad Institute, will use $1.1 million to establish genetic risk alleles, define gene expression profiles, and study the role of cellular activation in lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma. Both of these cancers are considered major health problems for golden retrievers.

The partners in this three-year project have already collaborated to identify several regions of the genome that contain heritable risk factors for these cancers, and they have identified somatic mutations in tumors that are recurrent in both cancers and are linked to the duration of remission in standard care. These risk factors also suggest that certain pathways may be involved in the development of these cancers and could lay a foundation for the development of targeted therapies.

The investigators intend to identify precise mutations for heritable genetic risk factors and will validate markers that can be used to determine risk at the heritable loci in a large, independent population of golden retrievers from the US and Europe. They hope to ultimately develop new risk prediction tools and an accompanying DNA test.

Another group, comprised of investigators at the University of Missouri, Colorado State University, and Texas A&M University, received a $400,000, three-year award to try to discover novel protein, epigenetic, and blood biomarkers that could be used to improve treatment of B-cell lymphomas in golden retrievers.

Because DNA methylation changes happen so early in the process of cancer development, they suspect that these biomarkers could enable early medical or dietary interventions that could prevent lymphoma before it develops.

The group also plans to fully phenotype cancer stem cells in lymphoma surface markers and DNA methylation changes, enabling them to target the cells that feed cancer metastasis.

The AKC CHF and GRF think that these epigenetic changes and markers being studied here in golden retrievers may occur across all dog breeds, which would expand the understanding of cancer for all dogs.