Genetic enzymes may point to canine cancer prevention

Risks associated with exposure to common environmental chemicals vary from dog to dog, new Morris Animal Foundation research suggests

Certain dogs may be more susceptible than others to developing environmentally associated cancers.

This is according to a new Morris Animal Foundation-funded study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), which explores how exposure to common environmental chemicals and individual genetic differences in response to them can affect a dog’s risk of developing cancer.

Researchers hope the findings will allow veterinarians to create unique health plans for canines, including possible avoidance and dietary restrictions, to help prevent cancer.

“If we can better understand what sort of chronic household exposures are important in dogs, we can do a better job of counteracting them and maybe decreasing the incidence of certain cancers,” explains the study’s principal investigator, Lauren Trepanier, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (SAIM), DACVCP, assistant dean for clinical and translational research at UW-Madison.

When dogs or humans are exposed to toxic chemicals in the environment, glutathione-Stransferase (GST) enzymes in the liver help neutralize those chemicals, Dr. Trepanier explains. Genetic variations in these enzymes mean the capacity to “deactivate environmental hazards” vary from person to person. The result is repeated exposure to toxic chemicals can lead to the development of cancer, but this risk varies depending on the individual.

“We want to know if the same thing is true for dogs and how they react differently on a genetic level,” Trepanier says.

To explore this, the UW-Madison research team is replicating four major forms of GST enzymes and then incubating them with potential carcinogens to see if the enzymes react, Morris Animal Foundation says. Among the substances of interest are acrolein, found in air pollution, tobacco smoke, and heat-treated foods, and a form of 2,4-D, an herbicide associated with lymphoma and bladder cancer in both dogs and people.

“The study’s findings could eventually allow us to identify dogs in a population that might be susceptible to certain cancers based on their enzyme profile,” says Morris Animal Foundation’s chief scientific officer, Janet Patterson-Kane, BVSc, PhD, FRCVS. “We may not have complete control over the toxic chemicals we expose our dogs to, but information like this could help us give them the longest, healthiest lives we can.”

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