Public Release:  TGen-led study spotlights dog DNA role in developing new therapies for human cancers

Study shows timeframe for canine sample analysis fits clinical window for human medical advancements

The Translational Genomics Research Institute

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- March 17, 2014 -- Using genomic analysis to study cancer in dogs can help develop new therapies for humans with cancer, according to a proof-of-concept study led by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Pure-breed dogs, whose genetics have been standardized by hundreds of years of human intervention, provide highly predictable genetic models useful in designing clinical trials, in which specific drugs are matched to the molecular profiles of human patients, according to the study published today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

"Our canine companions are not only 'Man's Best Friend,' but our study shows that dogs also can help human patients pursue battles against various types of cancer," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director and the study's senior author. "Not only do dogs with cancer benefit from this research, but people do, as well."

While there are, relatively, many genetic differences among humans with the same type of cancer, there are far fewer genetic differences among dogs of the same breed, making it vastly easier to identify and study the genes driving canine cancers.

The process of integrating naturally occurring cancers in dogs into the general studies of human cancer biology and therapy is known as comparative oncology. The identification of specific drugs to treat individuals based on their specific genetic or molecular make-up is often referred to as personalized medicine, or PMed.

Genetic samples from 31 dogs were analyzed in the proof-of-concept study organized under NCI's Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (COTC). Genetic samples were derived for this study from tumor biopsy samples. No dogs were harmed in any way in this clinical study.

"Complex models are needed to effectively evaluate PMed study designs, and this proof-of-concept trial validates the dog with cancer as a model for clinical evaluation of novel PMed approaches," said Dr. Melissa Paoloni, the study's lead author and former director of the COTC. "Comparative oncology models have the potential to expedite this evaluation and lead advancements in personalized medicine."

The COTC study was organized according to the propensity of different breeds to develop particular types of cancer. The study included Scottish terriers with bladder transitional cell carcinoma, golden retrievers with lymphoma, American cocker spaniels with melanoma, and a fourth group of dogs open to all cancer types.

The study's 31 samples of dog tumors was compared to 40 normal canine tissues samples as a way of estimating the variance in gene expression. The target turnaround time for this analysis was 7 days, but the study averaged this process in less than 5 days.

"Overall the turnaround for sample analyses fit a relevant clinical window for future comparative oncology trials to model human PMed advancements," said Dr. William Hendricks, a TGen Staff Scientist and another author of the study. "Future comparative oncology studies, optimizing the delivery of PMed strategies, may aid cancer drug development."

"Data from this study serves as rationale to now include dogs with spontaneous cancers in the advancement and optimization of PMed for human patients," according to the study, Prospective molecular profiling of canine cancers provides a clinically relevant comparative model for evaluating personalized medicine (PMed) trials.

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The study can be located at: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0090028.

Also contributing to this study were: Van Andel Research Institute; and the veterinary medicine colleges of Colorado State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Minnesota, Purdue University, and Michigan State University.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under a grant titled: Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium. Research reported in this press release was supported by the National Cancer Institute under award number UC2CA148149. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Cancer Institute or the National Institutes of Health.

About TGen

Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. TGen is focused on helping patients with cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes, through cutting edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research towards patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and rare complex diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities literally worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: http://www.tgen.org.

Press Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
602-343-8704
syozwiak@tgen.org

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