The prognosis for anyone diagnosed with lymphoma varies widely depending on which molecular subtype of the disease they have, so gaining a better understanding of those subtypes is vital to developing better therapies. Because dogs naturally develop lymphoma that closely mirrors some human forms of the disease, they make ideal research partners in studies designed to yield better therapies for both species. That was the goal of collaborators at 8 veterinary and human-medicine clinics, who recently published major findings from their work in the journal Genome Research.
The research team--led by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and funded by the AKC Canine Health Foundation and others--investigated mutations in B cell and T cell lymphomas found in pet boxers, cocker spaniels and golden retrievers. They discovered several common genetic mutations in B cell lymphomas in boxers and cocker spaniels. But T cell lymphomas had widely variable mutation patterns across all three breeds.
Most importantly, the researchers identified genes in the dogs that are also known to be involved in human lymphoma and leukemia, as well as novel genes. The newly characterized genes "could help in the discovery of much-needed new treatment options for cancer," said senior author Dr. Jessica Alfoldi of the Broad Institute in a press release from the AKC Canine Health Foundation.
The research collaboration is part of a broader push in the veterinary community to promote "comparative oncology," which is centered on the idea that studying cancer in pet dogs could yield important insights that can be translated to human oncology research. In June, the National Academies' Institute of Medicine held a two-day conference on comparative oncology that attracted veterinarians, doctors and pharma company executives. During the event, Daniel Tumas of Gilead ($GILD) described one of the company's experimental molecules to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which it tested in pet dogs as part of its effort to understand how it might best be used in people.
Academic veterinarians and doctors are also becoming increasingly involved in comparative oncology projects. In August, a professor of medicine at Yale teamed up with the Veterinary Cancer Center in Norwalk, CT, to test a cancer vaccine in dogs. And Colorado State University's veterinary school partnered with the nonprofit biotech agency Children's Cancer Therapy Development to study cancers that affect both dogs and children.
- here's the AKC Canine Health Foundation's release
- access the Genome Research paper here (PDF)