Discovery of public tumorspecific neoantigens (pTSNAs) and pTSNAreactive T cells arisen from hotspot mutations in canine hemangiosarcoma

Researchers will build on their discovery of “hotspot” mutations (tumor mutations shared between patients with the same cancer) to see if they can identify public tumor-specific neoantigens (pTSNAs) that are thought to play a role in immune response to cancer. Researchers hope findings will be a step toward a new immunotherapy that can be used in many different dogs suffering from hemangiosarcoma.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D24CA-536


Shaying Zhao, PhD, University of Georgia
Amount: $10,000

Using a heritable immunostimulatory bacterium to block heartworm transmission by mosquitoes

Summary: Researchers will investigate the use of a bacteria to help block transmission of heartworm parasites by mosquitoes.

Description: More than 150,000 cases of canine heartworm disease are reported annually in the United States alone. Monthly preventive treatments for dogs have been widely available since the mid-19805. However, drug-resistant strains are on the rise, highlighting the need for novel disease control strategies. Researchers will investigate how infection by certain bacteria decreases the capacity of mosquitoes to transmit infectious larvae of Dirofilaria immitis, the agent of heartworm disease. Bacteria-infected mosquitoes (and control groups) will be exposed to both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant parasites. The team hopes findings will provide a new approach to block the spread of the heartworm disease by targeting parasites in their mosquito host.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: DZ2CA·015


Michael Povelones; University of Pennsylvania
Amount: $10,000

Pathology Residency Training Program to support the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

This grant supports the advanced training of two aspiring veterinary pathologists who will assist with the analysis of tissue samples collected from dogs enrolled in Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

Highly trained investigators are vital to advancing the health and welfare of animals. Morris Animal Foundation is funding the training of two new veterinary pathologists to work with the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study research team. Under the mentorship of the study’s veterinary leadership team, the selected pathology residents will help examine submitted tissue samples from study participants in order to provide consistency in diagnosis of diseases, including cancer, as well as assist with advanced pathology diagnostics and reporting as needed.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D16CA-001


EJ Ehrhart, DVM, PhD, DACVP, Colorado State University
Amount: $10,000

Understanding the Relationship between Intestinal Bacteria and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Scientific Title: Tackling the Canine Microbiome in Chronic Enteropathy: Characterizing the Functionally Significant Changes that Occur with Remission of Disease

Summary: Researchers are looking at changes in gut bacteria that stimulate the immune system in dogs with inflammatory bowel disease to help identify novel ways to diagnose and treat this disease.

Description: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a common disease of dogs, causing vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. Some studies suggest that specific intestinal microbiota can drive or exacerbate intestinal inflammation, but this mechanism has not been well studied in dogs. Researchers will assess and track certain bacteria, known to interact directly with the gut immune system, in stool samples of dogs with inflammatory bowel disease. Data will be collected during treatment until the dogs gain remission. Findings will validate if these bacteria are functionally important to the disease process, and how treatment modifies the gut bacteria.

This new information will lead to a better understanding of how the gut microbiome can be manipulated in dogs with IBD and may reduce the need to directly biopsy the intestine to establish a definitive diagnosis of this condition.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D18CA-045


Dr. Caroline S Mansfield
The University of Melbourne, Australia
Amount: $10,000

Investigating Cancers and Exposure to Environmental Chemicals

Scientific Title: Detoxification of Environmental Carcinogens by Glutathione-Stransferases in Dogs

Summary: Researchers will find out how the dog’s body breaks down common environmental chemicals that have been linked to cancers in humans.

Description: When dogs or humans are exposed to toxic chemicals in the environment, they use glutathione-S-transferase (GST) enzymes to break down and neutralize those chemicals. When GST enzymes are not working, toxic chemicals sometimes lead to cancers such as lymphoma or bladder cancer. Researchers will test how well four major GST dog enzymes can neutralize several common environmental chemicals, including those found in tobacco smoke and yard products.

Results will provide a clearer understanding of whether individual dogs with low-acting GSTs may be sensitive to specific chemicals and, as a result, more susceptible to developing environmentally associated cancers.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D18CA-070


Dr. Lauren A Trepanier
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Amount: $10,000

Measuring Chemotherapy Drug Resistance in Dogs with T-cell Lymphoma

Quantitative Assessment of Minimal Residual Disease Kinetics during CHOP Chemotherapy of Canine T-cell Lymphoma via Next-Generation TCRVß Sequencing

Human cancer treatment is becoming more and more tailored to each individual case and tumor characteristics. This study will be conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University and will follow a small number of cells that evade chemotherapy agents, providing information on the effectiveness of particular agents against T-cell lymphoma. The data from this study will be used to personalize treatment protocols for dogs on an individual basis in hopes of improving outcomes, survival rates, and quality of life.

Description: Since the use of combination chemotherapy was first reported in 1968, little progress has been made in improving the survival of dogs with T-cell lymphoma. Effectively monitoring chemosensitivity – the number of tumor cells killed by chemotherapy– of individual lymphoma cells exposed to multiple agents over many treatments remains a challenge. Following the small numbers of cells that evade chemotherapy would provide information on the effectiveness of a particular chemotherapy agent.

In this clinical trial, researchers will use state-of-the-art DNA technology to measure changes in this small population of resistant cancerous T-cells in client-owned dogs with lymphoma. Data will be used to personalize treatment protocols for individual dogs in hope of improving survival and quality of life.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D16CA-056


Dr. Paul R. Hess, DVM, PhD
North Carolina State University
Amount: $10,000

Developing a New Tool to Study Viral Infections and Cancer in Dogs

Development of an MHC Class I Tetramer to Study Virus- and Tumor-specific CD8+ T-cell Responses in Dogs

Summary: Researchers will develop a state-of-the-art molecular tool to track and study killer T-cell populations that are responsible for fighting viral infections and cancer in dogs.

Description: In humans, a powerful immunologic reagent called a tetramer is standardly used to visualize changes in the body’s killer T-cells. These cells respond to immunologic challenges and are critical to the body’s immune system.

Current knowledge of T-cell behavior in dogs could be significantly advanced with the development of a dog-specific tetramer. Researchers will work to construct the first canine tetramer, which would then be used in the development of vaccines for infectious diseases and cancer in dogs.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D15CA-015


Dr. Paul R. Hess
North Carolina State University

Exploring New Medical Treatments for Cushing’s Syndrome in Dogs

Novel Medical Approach to Canine Hyperadrenocorticism with Melanocortin 2 Receptor (MC2R) Antagonist and Steroidogenic Factor 1 (SF-1) Inverse Agonists

Summary: Researchers will investigate potential new medical treatments for canine Cushing’s syndrome.

Description: Cushing’s syndrome is a hormonal disorder that occurs when the body produces higher than normal levels of the hormone cortisol. Unhealthy levels of cortisol can be triggered by various causes, including pituitary and adrenal gland tumors.

Researchers will assess how two novel compounds affect cortisol production and adrenal tumor growth. Identifying novel medical options will help improve treatment strategies for dogs with Cushing’s syndrome.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D15CA-052

Dr. Sara Galac
Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Testing a Potential Therapeutic Target for Lymphoma

Valosin-Containing Protein (VCP): A Novel Therapeutic Target for Canine Lymphoma

Summary: This study investigates a new therapeutic target (valosin-containing protein) for dogs with lymphoma.

Description: A cure for canine lymphoma remains elusive, in part because of the lack of molecular-targeted therapies that can circumvent chemotherapy resistance. The research team’s previous findings suggest that valosin-containing protein (VCP) holds particular promise as a therapeutic target.

In this study, they will test a known inhibitor of VCP to see if this results in preferential killing of lymphoma cells over healthy cells and to determine the critical mechanisms through which the anticancer effect is achieved. Identifying new therapeutic targets for canine lymphoma is the first step toward developing better treatments for this deadly disease.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D14CA-324


Dr. Marie-Eve Nadeau
University of Montreal, Canada

Testing Strategies to Treat Drug-Resistant Hemangiosarcomas

Lysosomal Drug Sequestration by CSF-1R (High) Tumor Cells Contributes to Drug Resistance in Canine Hemangiosarcoma

Summary: Investigators are assessing the potential for a specific tumor-cell population in canine hemangiosarcoma to sequester drugs within their lysosomes as a novel mechanism of drug resistance.

Description: Canine hemangiosarcoma is a common and highly metastatic cancer that affects all breeds of dogs. These tumors are particularly drug resistant, which makes them difficult to treat.

The investigators recently identified a more drug-resistant cell population in hemangiosarcoma. These cells appear to be extremely efficient in isolating cancer drugs and preventing them from reaching their targets. The investigators will use several strategies to try to disrupt this process and they will determine whether any of these approaches improves drug responses and diminishes drug resistance. This could lead to more effective treatment of this difficult cancer.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D14CA-047


Dr. Erin B. Dickerson
University of Minnesota