The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study: 5 Year of Progress in Veterinary Health and Biobanking

Posted by Sharon Albright, DVM on May 9, 2018 10:00:00 AM

Five years ago Fisher Clinical Services, a part of Thermo Fisher Scientific, embarked on a partnership with the Morris Animal Foundation to take veterinary research to a new level.  Since cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of two and golden retrievers (GRs) are at high risk of cancer development, Fisher Clinical Services is supporting the Foundation’s efforts in working to define the incidence and risk factors for cancer in man’s best friend.

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

The Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a prospective cohort study of approximately 3,000 GRs under the age of 2 years at enrollment with subsequent annual health exams, laboratory tests, questionnaire responses, and sample collection for archival storage.  Whole blood, serum, urine, feces, hair, and toenails are among the various sample types collected and analyzed in support of this study.

When managing large volumes of samples for cohort studies, it’s imperative that quality is at the forefront. Samples collected for research have a well-defined life cycle and the integrity (or lack thereof) can profoundly influence assay results.

 In celebration of the study’s fifth anniversary, Dr. Sharon Albright will share the progress, challenges and successes associated with the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study thus far.  Enjoy!

The goals of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study are to:

  1. Estimate the incidence of cancer in GRs in this cohort,
  2. Identify genetic, nutritional, lifestyle and environmental risk factors for cancer in GRs and the potential gene/environment interactions of populations susceptible to specific exposures, and
  3. Characterize the epidemiology of other common diseases that occur in GRs during the study period and investigate any associations with potential risk factors.

The core objectives of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study are to:

  1. Determine the incidence of four significant types of cancer (hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, lymphoma and mast cell tumor) in this cohort.
  2. Identify germline genetic variants associated with common cancers in GRs.
  3. Characterize the lifestyle, environmental and nutritional risk factors associated with cancer development among enrolled GRs.
  4. Establish extensive data and biological sample repositories for future analyses of major diseases, disorders or conditions in GRs.
  5. Explore associations between genetic variations, potential risk factors and the development of specific cancers.
  6. Estimate the incidence and risk factors for other common health disorders in this cohort of GRs.

Celebrating 5 Years: Challenges and Progress to Date

GRLS Statistics

84% of enrolled dogs are fully compliant with study protocol (completed owner questionnaire, sample collection and veterinary questionnaire for every year). 30 diagnoses of the primary four cancers (hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, high grade mast cell tumor, and osteosarcoma) have been recorded. 17 dogs have died from one of the four primary cancers being studied.

First Request for Proposals for Pilot Studies

Morris Animal Foundation published the first call for pilot study proposals using Golden Retriever Lifetime Study data and/or biosamples in September 2017. Proposals will be reviewed by the principal investigator, study director, staff scientist and members of the study’s Scientific Steering Committee. Pilot studies demonstrating scientific merit, relevance to the objectives of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, and judicious use of the biosamples will allow collaboration between Morris Animal Foundation and researchers to identify priorities for further study. 

Sample Storage and Protection

By partnering with industry leaders, the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study team will navigate through challenges associated with sample storage, sample valuation, and planning for bioinformatics management.

  • Sample storage

Fisher Clinical Services is instrumental in processing Golden Retriever Lifetime Study biosamples received from veterinarians across the contiguous United States. Aliquoting samples and managing the biorepository provides a unique resource to researchers studying many aspects of canine health.

  • Sample valuation

Morris Animal Foundation is working with industry leaders to prioritize use of biosamples collected. Factors such as sample degradation, relative value of samples from participants diagnosed with cancer versus other disease versus no disease, and economic sample storage are all being considered.

With plans to collect extensive data on the microbiome, metabolomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, etc. from 3,000+ subjects, bioinformatics management is an important focus as the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study moves through the data collection phase.

To continue to learn more about the progress of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, download your free copy of the eBook below!

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