Is your dog at risk of cancer?

Specific genes put some dog breeds at greater risk of cancer.

According to a new study published in PLOS Genetics, Bernese mountain dogs, Rottweilers, golden retrievers, and flat-coated retrievers are at a higher risk of developing histiocytic sarcoma (HS), an aggressive cancer that can also affect humans, because of six shared genes.

Dogs carrying five or more of these gene variants were at highest risk of developing blood cancers, and the genetic regions associated with HS accounted for around 5–15% of cancer cases in these dogs.

The team, led by Benoît Hédan at the University of Rennes, carried out genomic testing of these HS-susceptible breeds to identify the chromosomal regions that were most commonly shared between dogs with cancer, and identified four new genetic regions on chromosomes 2, 5, 14 and 20.

They also found that the genes had an additive effect called pleiotropy, where they influenced each other or multiple other genes and traits. Future studies could focus on looking at how the genes interact to get a better picture of the genetics and biochemistry of HS.

Because this is also a cancer that humans can develop, the analysis could also help understand the genetics of human HS-susceptibility.

“This study took advantage of dog-breed predispositions to decipher the genetic bases of histiocytic sarcoma, a rare human cancer,” the authors conclude.

“We showed that the risk to develop this cancer results from the accumulation of genetic alterations from several chromosomal regions linked to immune system function and to different cancers predisposition, providing relevant candidate genes for the corresponding human cancers.”

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