Purdue professors are working on reducing or eliminating transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), a deadly form of cancer found in dogs.
With the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation funding the work, Deborah Knapp, a professor of veterinary medicine and veterinary medical oncologist, and her group have teamed up with Larry Glickman, a professor of epidemiology and environmental medicine, and Dr. Elaine Ostrander at the National Institutes of Health to research dogs at risk for developing these types of cancer.
“Our group is working to determine the causes of TCC,” Knapp wrote in an email. “The reason this is important is that it could lead to discoveries on how to prevent TCC.”
Their research involves looking at genetic risk factors and which breeds are more likely to develop TCC.
“Scottish Terriers, for example, are 18 to 20 times more likely to develop TCC than mixed-breed dogs,” she said. “West Highland White Terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs and Beagles are also at higher risk for TCC development. These strong breed-associated risks implicate an important genetic component to the cancer development.”
The research group collects blood samples from Scottish Terriers and other “at-risk” breeds that are sent to Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. They also collect blood from older Scottish Terriers that do not have TCC.
“These blood samples are then shipped to Dr. Ostrander for whole genome scanning, a process that will enable us to determine the differences in the DNA between dogs with cancer and dogs without cancer,” she said. “It is likely that these differences will reveal genetic factors involved in TCC risk.”
Knapp said they have identified some regions of the DNA that are different between dogs with and without cancer.
Glickman wrote in an email that the research being done is an important factor for several reasons. One reason is that by identifying genes in dogs, they will also identify possible genes in humans and provide a method to determine who is at high risk for bladder cancer. “This will save lives, because early detection greatly improves the effectiveness of bladder cancer treatment,” Glickman said.
Another reason is that the research will justify the studying of dogs with spontaneously occurring cancer and to help researchers better understand “how genes interact with the environment to cause cancer,” according to Glickman. Also, by identifying bladder cancer genes in dogs, especially Scottish Terriers, breeders will be able to use genetic testing to determine which dogs carry the gene before they are bred. “Eventually this approach should allow us to greatly reduce or even eliminate this cancer in high-risk dog breeds,” he said.
Next for Knapp and the research group will be the specific identification of genes involved in TCC risk. The information could then be used in many ways to develop a test to determine which dogs are at a greater risk for TCC and who would benefit from cancer prevention studies or a rigorous cancer screening.
“In addition, the work could lead to studies to determine the extent to which specific gene mutations are involved in TCC development in humans as well as in dogs,” Knapp said, “and work to identify possible new therapies to ‘counteract’ the negative effects of the genetic abnormalities.”
Source: The Exponent Online