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Cancer plea from Animal health trust

Veterinary charity aims to help generations of dogs

A research project which aims to improve the way dogs are treated for a number of cancers is appealing to UK canine veterinary surgeries for assistance.

More than 3,000 surgeries are being approached by veterinary charity the Animal Health Trust asking for samples to be taken from certain breeds of dog diagnosed with certain types of cancer.
Using the samples, the AHT’s Oncology Research Group aims to develop prognostic tests for a number of canine cancers. These tests will assist veterinary professionals in predicting how individual tumours will behave and respond to treatment. It means that each dog will be offered the best treatment for its individual case, ensuring that dogs which do not require aggressive therapy are spared the rigours and possible side effects associated with such a treatment.

The samples required are surplus small pieces of the biopsies of suspected tumours, which are collected by vets for diagnostic histopathology. Cheek swabs, or blood samples, that are surplus to those that are often collected by vets for standard clinical investigations are also required. Samples will be submitted for research only with the written consent of each dog owner.
A mailing consisting of an information poster aimed at veterinary professionals and a further poster aimed at dog owners will be sent to 3,000 practices this week. The posters explain the importance of the work and significance of any individual sample.

Mike Starkey, from the AHT’s Oncology Research Group, said: “To make progress we need to collect many samples of many different tumours. We simply need vets to send us freshly frozen (not fixed in formalin) biopsies of suspected tumours.”

Samples are required from 13 breeds if they are suffering a specific type of cancer : Boxer (lymphoma, glioma mammary tumour, mast cell tumour); Bullmastiff (lymphoma); Cocker Spaniel (mammary tumour); , English Springer Spaniel (lymphoma), German Shepherd Dog (mammary tumour, haemangiosarcoma); Golden Retriever (mast cell tumour, melanoma, soft tissue sarcoma); Irish Wolfhound (osteosarcoma), Labrador (mast cell tumour, melanoma, soft tissue sarcoma), Poodle (toy, miniature and standard), (melanoma); Rottweiler (histiocytic sarcoma); Schnauzer (giant, miniature and toy), (melanoma); Scottish Terrier (melanoma) and Weimaraner (mast cell tumour).


Sue Murphy, the AHT’s Head of Oncology, said: “We know cancer is a major cause of death in dogs. The research we are doing here will arm us all with the ability to make better informed decisions about the right course of treatment for each patient.”

The samples will also aid with the AHT’s research into inherited genetic defects. Researchers are investigating to find out why certain pedigree dogs have an increased risk of developing a specific cancer. The AHT is part of a European research group working on the ‘LUPA project’. In the long term, this project aims to develop DNA tests to identify dogs which carry the mutations. This should enable breeders to alter their breeding strategies to reduce the incidence of dogs affected by those cancers. It will also allow vets to carefully monitor dogs who have an increased risk of developing cancer.

Mike Starkey added: “The help from veterinary practices and dog owners is invaluable in this research. Without the samples we’re unable to progress our work. Dog owners can make a real difference here by asking their vet to take a sample and send it to us should their dog be suffering from one of the types of cancers we’re investigating.”

If you would like further information about the project, please contact Mike Starkey on 01638 555603 or email

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