Discovering genetic and environmental risk factors for bladder cancer in dogs

Grant : Discovering genetic and environmental risk factors for bladder cancer in dogs

Principle Investigator:
Lauren Trepanier, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVCP
Professor of Internal Medicine
Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine
University of Wisconsin-Madison

We had a chance to catch up with Dr. Lauren Trepanier at University of Wisconsin-Madison about the progress of his grant and found that he had some exciting news!

The causes and individual risk factors of bladder cancer are not understood. There are certain breeds which are predisposed to get this type of cancer such as Scottish Terriers but there are also environmental factors that suggest gene-environment interaction for this cancer in dogs. Some of the environmental factors that have been associated with bladder cancer in dogs are older flea and tick dips and some lawn herbicides.

Dr. Trepanier and her team have been working toward the goal of her grant which is to “identifying specific genetic and environmental risk factors for bladder cancer in dogs, so that dog owners can be offered rational screening and cancer prevention and strategies. (If you would like to read the full description of the grant please click here)

We received an exciting update from Dr. Trepanier about the progress that has been made on the grant! Here is her update:

  1. We have recruited more than 70 dogs with bladder cancer (which was our target), and have already matched about 25 of them with older dogs of the same sex and breed that have not developed bladder cancer. This matching is very important to help us tease out important risk factors for bladder cancer.
  2. All of our dog owners have been very generous in filling out 5-page environmental questionnaires that cover common household and yard chemicals. From this, we have found an association between bladder cancer and yard chemicals in a preliminary analysis.
  3. We have also found a new GST variant that leads to almost complete loss of activity in dogs. A GST variant is a change in a GST gene. GST genes are important for defending the body against environmental chemicals that may be damaging. This could lead to an inability to break down potential cancer-causing chemicals from the environment. We are analyzing this GST variant and others in dogs with bladder cancer. However, we need to finish the matched control dogs to pursue this discovery.

This is very exciting news that they are seeing a correlation between environmental factors and bladder cancer. If the researchers are able to give us information on some environmental factors then we can take steps toward avoiding those things with our dogs and work toward preventing bladder cancer, now that is powerful information to have. I would hope that a successful study here with bladder cancer to identify environmental factors that may cause cancer would lead to another study including environmental factors contributing to other types of cancer as well. If they can also examine the gene side of the equation to find better strategies and treatment options, that is just knowledge that helps to fight cancer!