Lymphoma is a cancer of certain cells in the immune system. Many genes are thought to be associated with it, but scientists have pinpointed a few by making dog DNA into human DNA.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can be any of a group of cancers of the white blood cells - the lymphocytes. In 2010, there were over 65,000 new cases in the United States, and 20,000 deaths. Over the past few decades, many different genes have been associated with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but there were so many different variables that not many of them could be isolated as most essential to the cancer. Recently scientists thought of a way of stripping away non-associated genes by going way outside the human gene pool.
Dogs also get non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. They have long been subject to genetic selection, leaving extremely controlled test groups. A population of purebred dogs has a very limited number of genetic variation - far less variation than any human gene pool. Scientists took genetic samples from dogs with lymphoma, and rearranged their genes so that the dog DNA was sequenced as human DNA. Scientists then compared that DNA to the DNA of humans with lymphoma.
Doctor Matthew Breen of North Carolina State University head the project and has this to say about the results:
"In essence, we stripped the background noise from the human data. Lymphoma genomics is a lot more complex in human patients than in dog patients. This study tells us that while both humans and dogs have comparable disease at the clinical and cellular level, the genetic changes associated with the same cancers are much less complex in the dog. This suggests that maybe there is a lot of genetic noise in the human cancers that are not essential components of the process. While human studies have been looking in numerous places in the genome, the dog data indicate we need to focus on what's shared, and these are very few regions."
Finding out what genes are vital to the cancer in every life form, and what genes are human variations, can lead to more effective cancer-fighting genetic strategies.
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