In the early 1990's, Dr. Guillermo Couto, a veterinary oncologist at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, observed that there seemed to be a high number of Flat-Coated Retrievers with cancerous tumors coming to the OSU clinic for treatment. He searched through the clinic's records and found that indeed, FCRs had a higher incidence of tumors than any other breed that came through the OSU veterinary clinic. In 1993, the FCRSA provided Dr. Couto with approximately $5,000 to help him establish a tumor registry. All FCRSA members were encouraged to have tissue samples from any tumors removed from their FCRs sent to Dr. Couto to be characterized.
Since then, Dr. Couto and his associates have evaluated over 250 tumors from FCRs. A large percentage of these tumors were characterized as benign or malignant histiocytic neoplasms. This tumor appears to be more prevalent in FCRs than in any other breed.
Some of the tissue samples were analyzed for the presence of a protein produced by an oncogene known as p53. These p53-induced proteins were found to be present in some of the tissue samples. Immunohistochemical staining procedures indicated a p53 mutation in FCR tumors (approx. 40% of all tumors show this mutation), but the researchers weren't sure if this was a true mutation of p53 or a mutation induced by the preservation procedure of the tissue samples.
Currently, Dr. Couto and his colleagues are conducting a study to look for the p53 gene in tumors of Flat-Coated Retrievers. This study (funded jointly by the AKC Canine Health Foundation and the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America) is entitled, "Immunohistochemical and Mutational Analysis of p53 in Archival Benign and Malignant Tumors of Flat-Coated Retrievers". Funding was $19,460.00 in 1997, with the FCRSA providing 50% of the funds. This project includes the examination of blood and tissue samples. The collection technique for the tissue sample is different from what was previously used in the tissue registry and requires that OSU be contacted before a tumor is removed. The procedures for this were published in the May 1997 FCRSA newsletter. The address is: Drs. Couto and McLoughlin, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, The Ohio State University, 601 Vernon L. Tharp St., Columbus, OH 43210. The phone number is 614-292-3551. The fax number is 614-292-0895.
Dr. Terri King, an epidemiologist at Texas A & M University, is a Flat-Coated Retriever owner. She is working on aspects of the cancer issue in Flat-Coated Retrievers. She and Dr. Mary McLoughlin of The Ohio State University are conducting a pedigree analysis on the various types of tumors found in the tumor registry. Dr. King, along with several members of the Cancer Research Committee, conducted a survey of FCR owners to look for common factors among the FCRs that may correlate with cancer. The results of this survey were presented at the 1997 FCRSA National Specialty in Minnesota.
Dr. King has recently launched a new study looking for the presence of the p53 oncogene in related dogs (siblings of dogs known to have cancer and siblings of dogs not known to have cancer). This study has just started and preliminary results are not yet available. This study is not being funded by the FCRSA.
The Cancer Research Committee recognizes that cancer in our dogs is a very emotional issue. We are dedicated to keeping the FCRSA membership informed of the status of cancer research in Flat-Coated Retrievers and to educating the membership and their veterinarians about cancer and cancer treatment.
Amy Suggars, Ph.D.
Cancer Research Committee Chairperson