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May 17, 2019 | News

New research into common dog cancer

New research into common dog cancer

Research recently released by Together for Animals member, the Animal Health Trust, investigating the most common skin cancer in dogs, mast cell tumours, will be hugely beneficial to two of the UK’s most popular breeds of dog.

It is estimated that last year more than 12,000 dogs in the UK were affected by mast cell tumours, and it is widely acknowledged that Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are two breeds particularly susceptible to developing this type of tumour.

Research conducted by scientists at the Animal Health Trust in collaboration with groups in The Netherlands, Sweden and the USA, and funded by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, has revealed that 70% of Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers carry a genetic factor which increases their risk of developing mast cell tumours.

The charity’s scientists, led by Dr Mike Starkey, looked at the DNA of dogs, both affected and unaffected by mast cell tumours, and identified a change in the DNA, a ‘risk factor’, carried by seven in ten Labrador and Golden Retrievers. A dog that has two copies of this risk factor in its DNA is three to four times more likely to develop a mast cell tumour than a dog that doesn’t have a copy of the risk factor.

Dr Mike Starkey, Head of Cancer Research at the Animal Health Trust, said: “One in four dogs will be affected by cancer in its lifetime, and that is simply too many. As the only UK charity with a dedicated research programme focussed on cancer in dogs, ultimately we aim to prevent dogs from losing their lives to cancer, and reduce the number of dogs that develop cancer.

“We work towards these aims by focussing our research on tackling the most common aggressive cancers in dogs – in this case, mast cell tumours.

“By studying DNA isolated from blood or cheek cells, we are able to look at the role inherited genetic risk factors play in specific cancers in susceptible dog breeds. We hope, from this, to develop tests for genetic risk factors that will be able to be used to identify dogs in a susceptible breed that have the greatest risk of developing a particular cancer and will potentially pass this high risk onto their puppies.

Dr Mike Starkey and the team at the Animal Health Trust now hope to identify other genetic risk variants for mast cell tumours in Labrador and Golden Retrievers. If sufficient risk factors can be identified, it should be possible to make a DNA screening test available to benefit more than 100,000 dogs in the UK.

Dr Starkey added: “Cancer remains one of the biggest threats to the wellbeing of dogs, but through research, we are taking major strides forward in finding ways to beat it.”

Funds raised by Together for Animals supports the work of AHT. Their work is vital and forefront in the development of treatment for diseases and injuries in cats, dogs and horses. To help save lives text PETS to 70085 to donate £3 or visit our donate page.