New canine cancer study

A new study from the Morris Animal Foundation is seeking to uncover the causes of canine cancer and possible ways to beat the disease.


The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, the first study in the Morris Animal Foundation’s Canine Lifetime Health Project, is designed to better prevent, diagnose and treat cancer and other cancer disease.


The study will last 10 to 14 years, and is boasted to be the largest and longest observational study ever to improve the health of dogs.


The study will target 3,000 Golden Retrievers within the contiguous United States. Dogs must be healthy and under 2 years of age at the time of enrollment. They must also prove a three-generation Golden Retriever pedigree.


The breed was chosen because of its higher prevalence of cancer and other various diseases.


Chief Scientific Officer of the Foundation, Wayne Jensen, DVM, says that in choosing the Golden Retriever as a subject, the Foundation will help other breeds as well.


“Goldens have a high rate of these diseases,” Jensen said. “Many times, causes of these diseases transcend breeds. We firmly believe that with that many dogs, we will get lots of information about other diseases as well.”


Jensen says finding the right golden retriever owner is key to the success of the study. More than half of Golden Retrievers die from cancer – finding owners dedicated to improving the health of the breed is a vital part of the study, Jensen says.


 “We want to target the person whose first golden retriever may have died of cancer,” Jensen said. “The most important part is picking the owner in the first place.”


The Foundation will start by enlisting the help of veterinarians first. As the study develops, the Foundation plans to reach back out to pet owners.


“Our primary effort is reaching out to veterinarians,” Jensen said.


Veterinarians often know which owners will be committed enough to stick with the study for a long period of time. In his own practice, Jensen and his wife have many Golden Retriever owners who might make good participants in the study, he said.


“In our AAHA-accredited practice, we have quite a few committed Golden Retriever owners,” Jensen said. “It’s very important that veterinarians find owners that are committed to sticking it out.”


Dogs can be enrolled at any point over the next two years.


Owners must agree to participate in the study for the lifetime of the dog, and must also select a veterinarian who agrees to participate as well. If an owner should move to a different location in the contiguous United States, they will be encouraged to find a participating veterinarian in their new location.


“Retention of study participants is key,” Jensen said. “My goal is to not lose a single dog.”


Jensen said owners will need to fill out exhaustive questionnaires online about their Golden Retrievers. Questions asked will include details such as what the dog is fed, where it sleeps, what type of material it sleeps on, how much exercise it gets, where it spends the majority of its time and travel history, among others.


Veterinarians will go online to enter information as well. Though the dog will only need to visit the veterinarian once a year, the veterinarian will be asked to report the findings online and collect annual samples of blood, urine, feces, hair and toenail clippings and ship them to participating laboratories. When applicable, veterinarians will also need to take tumor tissue samples and ship them for evaluation.


“We really believe we will be able to identify ways to prevent cancer,” Jensen said.


The pilot study is scheduled to begin in April. The Foundation plans to enroll 50 dogs in its month-long pilot project then.


“This is an opportunity for veterinarians to participate in a never-done before study,” Jensen said. “The enthusiasm has been great.”


Jensen says he and the Foundation envision future studies down the line.


“This is the first study,” Jensen said. “I fully expect it not to be the last.”


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