Domestic dogs are unique from other animal models of cancer in that they generally experience spontaneous disease. In addition, most types of cancer observed in humans are found in dogs, suggesting that canines may be an informative system for the study of cancer genetics. Domestic dogs are divided into over 175 breeds, with members of each breed sharing significant phenotypes. The breed barrier enhances the utility of the model, especially for genetic studies where small numbers of genes are hypothesized to account for the breed cancer susceptibility. These facts, combined with recent advances in high-throughput sequencing technologies allows for an unrivaled ability to use pet dog populations to find often subtle mutations that promote cancer susceptibility and progression in dogs as a whole. The meticulous record keeping associated with dog breeding makes the model still more powerful, as it facilitates both association analysis and family-based linkage studies. Key to the success of these studies is their cooperative nature, with owners, scientists, veterinarians and breed clubs working together to avoid the cost and unpopularity of developing captive populations. In this article we explore these principals and advocate for colony-free, genetic studies that will enhance our ability to diagnose and treat cancer in dogs and humans alike.
Keywords: RNA-seq; canine cancer; chip-seq, dog colony; exome; histiocytic sarcoma; osteosarcoma; squamous cell carcinoma of the digit; transitional cell carcinoma; tumor sequencing; whole genome.
Published by Oxford University Press 2014. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.