Fighting cancer with some help from our (best) friends

Paul Goldsmith, October 11th, 2013
  • On September 19, human and canine representatives from
    2 Million Dogs were on-hand to present a new gift of $20,000
    to help fund the Broad’s study of canine mast cell tumors.

Sit. Fetch. Roll-over. Humans have been trying to teach dogs for tens of thousands of years. But when it comes to the genetics of cancer, it turns out dogs have a lot to teach us, as well.

Different as we may seem, humans and dogs are genetically-speaking quite similar. Almost all canine genes have a matching gene in the human genome. Given this correlation, it’s no surprise that dogs suffer from many of the same genetic disorders as human, including cancer.

“Cancer is a cross-species disease,” said Luke Robinson, founder of 2 Million Dogs, a charitable foundation dedicated to discovering the common links between canine and human cancers. “Now more than ever, it’s imperative for us to work to end the cancer epidemic—and that’s why we’re teaming with the Broad.”

On September 19, human and canine representatives from 2 Million Dogs were on-hand to present a new gift of $20,000 to help fund the Broad’s study of canine mast cell tumors—an aggressive cancer which accounts for almost one third of all skin tumors in dogs. It is a disease closely related to mastocytosis, a painful condition in humans triggered by an excess of mast cells, and resulting in symptoms ranging from skin lesions to anaphylaxis.

“By looking for genetic risk factors in multiple dog breeds we will be able to identify what the key disease mechanism are for this devastating disease,” said Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Scientific Director of Vertebrate Genome Biology at the Broad Institute, who oversees the Institute’s dog disease-mapping group. Because of the high-incidence of mast cell cancer in dogs, the canine genome offers a unique opportunity to understand the biology of the disease.

“Determining the underlying genetics for canine cancers like mast cell tumors can lead to better diagnostics, prevention and treatment of both canine and human disease,” said Lindblad-Toh. Work on this project is already underway and will now be expanded, thanks to 2 Million Dogs.

This gift was made possible by 2 Million Dogs’ annual “Cancer Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down” calendar contest. This is the second year that the Broad’s research was selected as the primary funding recipient by 2 Million Dogs’ Board of Directors. Their first gift was directed to support research of canine osteosarcoma.


 

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