Reports from WVC - Lunch roundtable on a groundbreaking longitudinal study

by David S. Greene

In January, we covered the announcement of a groundbreaking new study that, for the first time, seeks to find the root and contributing factors to cancer in animals, particularly dogs. As a follow up to that announcement, the Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) hosted a lunch last week at the 83rd Annual Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, to familiarize attendees with the projects aims and parameters.

The forum was a question and answer session to further discuss the $25 million Canine Lifetime Health Project (CLHP), now entering the design stage. The project is co-sponsored by a consortium including Hills Pet Nutrition, VCA Antech,Blue Buffalo,Pfizer Animal Health, Mars and PETCO.

CLHP seeks to identify the environmental, nutritional and genetic risk factors that put animals at risk for cancers. The study will specifically look to follow 2,500 golden retrievers for up to 13 years. Wayne Jensen DVM, PhD, MAFs Chief Science Officer, was impressed by the lunch turnout and the keen interest the audience members displayed, as evidenced by their questions.

"This is going to an owner-centric study," Jensen said. "Not surprisingly, veterinarians wondered how owners are being recruited. The owners will be directed to a website to log information. Were looking for a particular type of owner, one with an emotional commitment. Thats going to be important, as their participation could last for up to 13 years."

The veterinarians in attendance were particularly interested in the design parameters of the study (which are still to be determined), and showed special interest in factors such as canine levels of vitamin D, and how it might relate to protection from different cancers. As far as MAF is concerned, its all in play. "Anything that can be measured will be measured," Jensen said.

As it happened, Jensens wife, herself a practicing veterinarian, was in the audience at the lunch. Jensen pointed to his wife as an example of the kind of veterinarian that MAF hopes will assist in the recruiting process.

"Every veterinarian, including my wife, in the audience, knows of clients who have goldens, and theyre committed to their dog, These owners wont drop out. Even if they move from one location to another, they can continue to participate in the study, regardless of where they live."

As part of the CLHP, owners of dogs who are between two and five years of age at the studys outset will be required to bring their dogs to a participating veterinarian for annual physical exams, and to send pre-packaged tests to a central location for testing of blood, urine, serum and tumors. Additionally, regular surveys will be completed by the owners, either online or via a faxed copy sent by their veterinarian.

The corporate sponsors who have committed to the study admit they have never before participated jointly in this kind of venture. David Haworth, Pfizers Director of Companion Animal Alliances at Pfizer Animal Health, told the assembled group that CLHP will be more than hypothesis testing. It will, he said, "be hypothesis generating." The guiding idea behind the study, according to Jensen, is that the sponsors recognize "that this is bigger than any one company."

Links to videos

Study to explore lifelong health of Golden Retrievers

This long-term study will follow 2,500 Golden retrievers through their lifetimes to learn more about the nutritional, environmental and genetic facts that influence the development of cancer in this breed. Learn more by watching these videos.

NEWStat Advancements & research News