Canine cancer biomarkers to be explored

Morris Animal Foundation has partnered with biotech start-up company Loyal to study dogs’ genetic changes that occur as they age

Morris Animal Foundation has partnered with biotech start-up company Loyal to study dogs’ genetic changes that occur as they age. Photo courtesy Morris Animal FoundationDetermining early indicators of disease and helping dogs lead the longest, healthiest lives possible is the driving force behind Morris Animal Foundation’s latest partnership.

Cellular Longevity, Inc., (DBA Loyal, a biotech start-up company) is set to explore epigenetic changes in canine DNA using samples from the foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. The research, Morris says, aims to investigate how various biomarkers could indicate future health outcomes, including cancer.

“The dogs in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study offer us a unique opportunity to investigate how various biomarkers change throughout life and might be predictive or causal of their future lifespan and healthspan,” says Loyal’s founder and CEO, Celine Halioua.

Specifically, the study will attempt to discern differences in DNA between dogs that developed cancer in their lifetime and dogs that did not. Researchers will analyze DNA from blood samples, collected over nine sequential years from healthy golden retrievers and those that developed lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma.

The team will focus on patterns of DNA methylation in the samples, Morris reports. Previous studies have demonstrated certain methylation patterns correlate with age and can predict age-related diseases, such as cancer. It is hypothesized aging drugs may improve or prevent age-related methylation changes.

Researchers will statistically analyze and compare methylation patterns between both healthy dogs and those that developed cancer to identify specific patterns that could predict the onset of the disease and determine when these changes first arise.

“If we can discover the beginnings of a pattern, maybe there is a way to watch for certain changes in a dog’s DNA before cancer happens,” Halioua says. “What we find could provide clues to prevention and early diagnostics, as well as paths to novel drug development for aging and age-related cancers.”

“Loyal’s focus on better understanding the canine aging process and underlying biomarkers aligns with our efforts to give dogs longer, healthier lives,” adds Morris Animal Foundation’s chief scientific officer, Janet Patterson-Kane, BVSc, PhD, FRCVS. “We are excited to work with them and look forward to sharing data from our Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, adding to the scientific findings of this impactful initiative.”

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is among the largest, most comprehensive prospective canine health studies in the U.S. While primarily intended to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle, and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs, extensive data collection is informing other areas of canine health as well.

For more information on the study, click here.

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