Nav: Home

How human genetic data is helping dogs fight cancer

June 25, 2019

Some of what we learn through the compassionate treatment of dogs with cancer goes on to help human patients. Now a study by researchers at University of Colorado Cancer Center and Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center returns the favor: We know so many of the genetic changes that cause human cancer - the current study, recently published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, sequences 33 canine cancer cell lines to identify "human" genetic changes could be driving these canine cancers, possibly helping veterinary oncologists use more human medicines to cure cancer in dogs.

"We're taking what we know from human cancers and applying it in canine cancers to help move the canine cancer treatment forward faster," says Dawn L. Duval, PhD, investigator at CU Cancer Center and assistant professor in the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The study used whole-exome sequencing, which identifies the structure of a cell's protein-producing genes (excluding genes that sit silently in the genome). Humans have about 23,000 genes with many genetic variations naturally found in each cell. The vast majority of these variations are meaningless; a very few cause cancer. In the current study, the group was able to identify 61 genetic variants in these canine cancer cell lines that match known drivers of human cancer.

"Our goal was to start to connect the dots from genetic variations we were seeing on an analytical, screening level to variants that were truly driving cancer and could be explored as druggable targets," Duval says.

The study went beyond simply identifying these targets.

"We did all this variant finding and and at that point it was all very theoretical. Then we used a molecularly targeted drug - a MEK inhibitor - across the whole panel. Sure enough, what we saw was that canine cell lines with mutations in MAPK pathway genes, matching those known to cause human cancers, were sensitive to the same drugs that we would use with humans," Duval says.

Interestingly, the study could bring benefit full circle. After identifying these human oncogenes in canine cancer cells, the group placed the genes they found into 10 functional categories - "Categories of genes that control things like proliferation, cell cycle, DNA repair, etc.," Duval says. Then, in each of these categories, the group placed a "heat map" of genetic variants not yet known to cause cancer, but suspicious due to their prevalence in these cancer cell lines.

"The goal was to say, for example, here's a BRAF mutation - we know this is a cancer driver and here are all these other genes that had alterations that were grouped with BRAF. So here are genes to look at in the future. It's a way to discover new cancer drivers in dogs, which could potentially be new drivers in humans as well," Duval says.

By determining which canine cancers are most like human cancers, the group may also be able to transfer lessons learned while treating these human-like canine cancers back to the treatment of human patients.

"This would allow us to run drug trials in dogs that can be used to optimize therapies for both species," Duval says.

The goal now is to sequence more tumors from dogs and to develop additional cell lines to expand the panel. Eventually, the project could help to discover which human drugs work against cancer in dogs and which dog cancers closely resemble human cancers in both the driving mutations and drug responses. And just as the genes found to cause cancer in humans may also be targets for cancer in dogs, this process that leads to the discovery of cancer-causing genes in dogs could lead to new targets for anti-cancer drugs in humans.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Related Cancer Articles:

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
Health indicators for newborns of breast cancer survivors may vary by cancer type
In a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed health indicators for children born to young breast cancer survivors in North Carolina.
Few women with history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer take a recommended genetic test
More than 80 percent of women living with a history of breast or ovarian cancer at high-risk of having a gene mutation have never taken the test that can detect it.
Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab