New Horizons in Science

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One Medicine: how dogs are accelerating human cancer research

Topic: Cancer Genomics
Image of Alaskan Husky eyes, one blue one brown
Pharoh Hound
Sunday, November 3, 2013 -
3:45pm to 4:30pm
Century Ballroom A

Matthew Breen knows the source of the cancers common in purebred dogs: people. As we bred dogs for behavioral and appearance traits, humans unwittingly selected for susceptibility to maladies including retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia and certain cancers. But genomic studies have revealed a silver lining: Research on these inbred populations can radically accelerate progress on cancers shared by humans and their loyal companions. By looking at 150 dogs with lymphoma, Breen and colleagues identified a genetic signature that predicts how long a dog will respond to chemotherapy. The same signature, found in corresponding regions of the human genome, might also help doctors refine the prognosis for human lymphoma patients. There is so much genetic diversity in humans that locating it otherwise would have taken many years. Breen is working with breeders to reduce defective genes from kennel populations in a controlled and effective way, while collaborating with labs seeking clues to human cancer. “Within [the canine] genome,” he says, “we’re starting to find the answers we’ve been looking for in our own genome for 50 years.”


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