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A list of current health studies underway..........

Animal Health Trust Cancer Genetics Studies

Genetic studies on the predisposition of pedigree dog breeds to developing certain cancers

The Animal Health Trust is a charity that has been helping dogs, cats and horses for more than half a century. The AHT provides specialist veterinary clinical, diagnostic and surgical services, and is dedicated to the study of canine, equine and feline diseases. The AHT multidisciplinary Oncology Research Group is currently investigating many different aspects of a number of the most common cancers of dogs and cats.

Cancer is a major cause of death in dogs, and tumours are twice as common in dogs as in humans. Certain breeds of dog are much more likely to develop cancer than other breeds, with some families within these breeds being particularly susceptible to some cancers. The inherited susceptibility probably results from the combined effects of many modified genes, each of which alone, confers a low to moderate increase in risk. The risk of developing a cancer is thought to increase according to the number of altered genes carried.

We wish to identify the genes that, when mutated, are associated with an increased risk of developing a common cancer. At the moment we are planning to investigate the genes associated with:

mast cell tumours in Boxers and Weimaraners
lymphoma in Boxers, Bulldogs and Bullmastiffs
osteosarcoma in Irish Wolfhounds

In the long term, we hope that the research will lead to the development of diagnostic tests to identify the gene alterations that confer increased risk, thereby enabling early identification and treatment of cancers and allowing breeders to take these gene mutations into consideration in their breeding programmes.

There are two common approaches to identifying the genes that are associated with disease. The first focuses on families in which the disease has been shown to be inherited, studying an affected dog(s), its siblings, its dam and sire, and its grandparents. The second approach is to compare dogs with the disease and unrelated animals of the same breed who are not affected by the disease.

We need to collect samples from as many dogs (belonging to the 5 breeds listed above) as possible. Once we have these samples in place, we can apply for funding to carry out the research that will enable us to identify the cancer-related genes contained in the genetic material (DNA). DNA can be isolated either from cells gathered from the inside of a dog’s cheek, or ideally from a small volume of blood.
We would like to collect samples from dogs who have (or have had) one of the 3 cancers (and may, or may not, belong to a family in which cancer appears to be inherited), and from dogs (preferably at least 5 years old) that have not had cancer.

In 2005, we hosted two Open Days at the AHT for representatives of the 5 breed societies to explain the work that we are currently doing and what we would like to do. In addition, we are continually recruiting breeders and owners who are interested in taking part in these research studies by submitting cheek swabs, or blood samples, from their dog(s).

Since blood sampling is an invasive procedure, we only ask owners to save surplus blood from that collected by a vet as part of a general health check, or for another medical reason.

If you would like to take part in these studies please complete the form below and return it to Dr Mike Starkey at the Animal Health Trust, either by post (to the address at the bottom of the page), or by fax to +44 (0)8700 502461.

If you have any questions, or would like further details, please contact
Dr Mike Starkey [Tel.: +44 (0)8700 509188; E-mail: mike.starkey@aht.org.uk].


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