I had the great pleasure of attending the International Clumber Spaniel Symposium hosted by the Swedish club this year, in conjunction with their club shows. I was delighted to be invited to speak about how Clumber fanciers worldwide can work together to keep improving the health of this breed we all love so much.
I spoke about the importance of communicating with each other, about DNA banking and research in general. I also spoke specifically about the work being done in research at the facility I work at, the Van Andel Research Institute. Cancer researchers there are studying the DNA from dogs of several different breeds with five different types of cancer. We are looking particularly at hemangiosarcoma, a fatal tumor of the spleen which can affect Clumbers as well as most large breeds of dogs. We are also studying osteosarcoma (bone cancer), lymphoma, melanoma and malignant histiocytosis in various breeds.
While hemangiosarcoma is not an overwhelming problem in Clumbers, they are over-represented statistically. The average large breed has about 24 out of 100,000 dogs affected with HSA; Clumber owners have reported more than 10 (in a population estimated at approximately 3,000). In over-represented breeds, there can be an underlying genetic component. Please do realize that genetic does not necessarily mean hereditary! So, the scientists are evaluating DNA samples from dogs within a given breed that have a specific type of cancer and comparing it to the DNA of dogs in the same breed who have not developed that cancer. The results are analyzed statistically to see if genetic markers can be determined.
Additionally, owners/veterinarians can send us fresh tumor tissue. The tumor cells are grown in culture, and these cells are useful in many types of research projects. They can be evaluated for basic biochemical differences, to see why the cancer cells behave as they do. We have run drug screens of a panel of approximately 90 FDA approved cancer drugs, to see which might be effective and useful. We can even transplant the tumor cells into mice, which allows treatment trials to be run. The ultimate goals of the research are to provide improved diagnostics, better and more individualized therapies for dogs and people both, and perhaps even DNA markers which would serve as an extremely useful additional tool for breeders.
Part of this work requires DNA from healthy, normal dogs. Every affected dog in a genetic study has an age- and sex-matched, healthy counterpart. The Clumber Spaniel Club of America founded a DNA bank about 15 years ago, in anticipation of rapidly accelerating genomic technology. This bank has enabled our breed to help provide researchers with DNA used in studies investigating Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia, intervertebral disc disease and hemangiosarcoma.
An anonymous supporter generously provided $1500, to sponsor the banking fees for 100 international DNA samples from Clumbers world-wide. Additionally, the Clumber Spaniel Health Foundation provided 100 salivary collection kits, so that owners of the international dogs were able to participate at no cost. I am very happy to report that I was able to collect DNA (salivary samples) from 63 dogs at the Swedish shows! These included several dogs from other countries, too. This was nearly every dog in attendance � and a few of the dogs there had already contributed their DNA at other events. We also sent home sample collection kits for owners in Great Britain and Australia! The level of participation was extremely gratifying, and made me feel very optimistic about the future for Clumbers worldwide!
Thank you again for the invitation � it was a wonderful experience.