The Animal Health Trust, Newmarket, England, is doing a genetic study on Osteosarcoma in 8 breeds of dogs, including Greyhounds. Dr Mike Starkey is heading the research. I asked him if he had met Dr Couto of Ohio State University, who also studies greyhounds/galgos. He said 'I met Dr. Couto at a meeting in the United States earlier this year. He is part of a consortium of researchers working on osteosarcoma (in several breeds) in the US, and we are actively collaborating with another member of the US consortium. The study to identify genetic risk factors for US Greyhounds has been ongoing for some time - our initial objective is to evaluate if UK (in particular), but also non-US, Greyhounds are likely to share the same genetic risk factors for osteosarcoma as US Greyhounds
Dr Starkey describes his study.
The Greyhound osteosarcoma study is a relatively recent initiative. The basis of the studies to identify genetic risk factors for osteosarcoma in Greyhounds are relatively detailed surveys (using definitive data from clinical, histopathological and/or insurance databases) of the prevalence of osteosarcoma in different pedigree dog breeds that demonstrated that Greyhounds (amongst a number of large/giant breeds) have a higher risk of developing of osteosarcoma than ‘most other breeds’, suggesting the involvement of genetic risk factors.
I have not seen any detailed data on the prevalence of osteosarcoma in Spanish Galgos, and I am not aware of whether this is perceived to be an issue for the breed. However, if Galgo owners/breeders believe that osteosarcoma is a serious issue for the breed and will actively help us to collect samples, then we could certainly consider initiating a new study.
Genetic study on osteosarcoma in Greyhounds by the Animal Health Trust Oncology Research Group
The Animal Health Trust is a charity, and a research institute, that has been helping dogs, cats and horses for more than half a century. The Trust provides specialist veterinary clinical, diagnostic and surgical services, and is dedicated to the study of canine, equine and feline diseases. In collaboration with researchers in the United States, the Oncology Research Group at the Animal Health Trust is seeking to identify the one, or more, inherited gene alterations that are responsible for Greyhounds having an increased risk of developing osteosarcoma.
Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer of dogs. The tumours usually develop in the long bones of the legs close to the joints, such as by the stifle, or close to the shoulder joint. Early signs are lameness and pain. The tumour is extremely malignant and chemotherapy is usually required after surgery. About 40-60% of dogs that receive chemotherapy survive for 1 year, and half of these survive long term.
Osteosarcoma is associated with increasing height (and weight) and therefore the highest prevalence is in large and giant breeds. However, some families within these breeds are particularly affected, suggesting an inherited predisposition.
In 2003, researchers at the AHT examined the prevalence of osteosarcoma within a UK population of 130,684 dogs insured by a pet insurance company between June 1997 and May 1998. The researchers found that the Greyhound had a higher risk of developing osteosarcoma than the majority of the 17 other breeds for which osteosarcoma was reported, suggesting the involvement of genetic risk factors. An inherited susceptibility to developing osteosarcoma probably results from the combined effects of a number of gene alterations, each of which alone confers a low to moderate increase in risk.
In the long term, we hope that the research will lead to the development of DNA tests to identify dogs that have an increased risk of developing osteosarcoma, allowing breeders to take this into consideration in their breeding programmes. The identification of ‘osteosarcoma susceptibility genes’ will also increase understanding of how these tumours develop, thereby ultimately assisting the development of new treatments.
Greyhound owners can help the osteosarcoma study by submitting 2 types of sample:
1). Blood/cheek swab sample
If your dog (of any age) has a suspected osteosarcoma OR is at least 8 years
and has never had any type of cancer:
If your vet is taking a blood sample for a clinical reason and there is some blood left over, ask the vet to save a surplus sample (1-2ml) in an EDTA tube and send it to the AHT (address below)
Contact the AHT (details below) to request a cheek swab kit (includes instructions). Collect some cells from the inside of your dog’s cheek and then send the cheek swabs to the AHT
2). Tumour sample
If your dog has a suspected osteosarcoma:
• Ask your vet to place a small piece (a 3-5mm cube) of the biopsy of the
suspected tumour (normally removed for diagnostic histopathology) in a
special preservative (‘RNAlater’) provided by the AHT upon request (details
For any queries or more information about the project, please contact:
Dr. Mike Starkey [Tel: +44 (0)1638 555603; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
To submit a blood sample, or request a cheek swab kit and/or an RNAlater sample tube (for a tumour biopsy), please contact the Oncology Research Group [leave a message by telephoning +44 (0)1638 751000 extension 1214, or E-mail:
Animal Health Trust, Lanwades Park, Kentford, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 7UU, UK.