Canine cancer could be linked to evolution

Canine cancer could be linked back to the evolution process of canine chromosomes, according to new research from North Carolina State University.

According to a news release from NC State, researchers discovered that the breakpoint areas in canine chromosomes are the same regions that have been associated with chromosome breaks in spontaneously occurring cancers.

These breakpoint areas are where chromosomes broke during speciation when new species of dogs developed. In overlaying genomes of several wild canine species with those of the domestic dog, researchers found shared evolutionary breakpoints among 11 different canine species.

Dr. Matthew Breen, professor of genomics and lead researcher, said that the evolutionary breakpoints could have caused canine cancer.

"It is possible that the re-arrangement of chromosomes that occurred when these species diverged from one another created unstable regions on the chromosome, and that is why these regions are associated with cancer," Breen said in the news release. "The presence of clusters of cancer- associated genes on canid B chromosomes suggests that while previously though to be inert, these chromosomes may have played a role in sequestering excess copies of such genes that were generated during speciation."

According to the news release, being able to map these "fragile" regions in dogs may contribute to the discovery and treatment of human cancers as well.

"We now need to determine whether these stored genes are active or inert – that information could give us new tools in cancer detection and treatment," Breen said in the news release.

The researchers’ results appear in Chromosome Research.
Read the full news release from North Caroline State University.