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Our Research

Science has the power to change the world

As the global leader in supporting scientific research that advances veterinary medicine, Morris Animal Foundation has invested more than $100 million toward more than 2,400 studies to improve the health and well-being of dogs, cats, horses, llamas/alpacas and wildlife.

At any given time, Morris Animal Foundation is managing more than 200 active studies. Each year, we also fund about 30 veterinary student scholar projects. Search our health study database by species or area of study to learn more about research that will make a true difference in the lives of animals—today and tomorrow.

To sponsor a study, please contact a member of our sponsorship team for the most up-to-date status on our research projects at sponsorship@MorrisAnimalFoundation.org or call 800.243.2345. 

Search Results

Evaluation of Cyclopamine as a Therapy for Canine Bone Cancer

Cancer arises from a single mutated cell possessing the power to replicate, expand and eventually form a tumor. There are many theories as to what causes and prompts progression of this process. One theory states that a cell with stem cell capabilities divides to produce new tumor-initiating cells and daughter cells. Identifying pathways that can increase sensitivity of these cells to therapeutic intervention is paramount to finding a cure for bone cancer. Cyclopamine, a chemical found in the corn lily plant, inhibits the Sonic Hedgehog pathway, which is responsible for normal embryo development and for maintaining adult stem cells and directing the regeneration of tissues. This study will research cyclopamine’s effectiveness at inhibiting tumor-initiating cells in canine osteosarcoma cell lines. The goal is to provide a new targeted therapy for pets with osteosarcoma.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Heather M. Wilson, Texas A&M University, First Award Grant

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: Newfoundland Club of America Charitable Trust; Mrs. Sara Grover; Linda Watkins, in honor of Jasper; The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc.; Mrs. Sara A. Grover; The Greyhound Project, Inc.; Anonymous, Tycho, always a star; Wendy Knudsen Farrell & George Farrell

Study ID: D10CA-308

Examining the Role of Stem Cells and Genes in Mammary Tumor Development

Mammary tumors are among the most common cancers in female dogs and cats. Surgical removal is the most widely accepted treatment option for mammary tumors in small companion animals, but this treatment has a high incidence of tumor recurrence and metastatic disease. There is an urgent need for better understanding of the genes involved in tumor suppression. One tumor suppressor gene, SYK, has been little studied but appears to affect breast tumor development and aggressiveness in humans. Accumulating evidence indicates that mammary stem cells are the primary target cells for cancer development, and SYK has been found in the mammary cells of dogs and cats. The researchers will examine SYK and mammary stem cells and their role in cancer development in an effort to better understand how different genes affect mammary tumors.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Gerlinde R. Van de Walle, Ghent University, Belgium

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Anonymous, for Hazel

Study ID: D12MS-002

Exploring the Role of a Regulatory Protein in Canine Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is the most common cancerous bone tumor in dogs, and it is most often diagnosed in large breed dogs. It is extremely aggressive and often fatal because of its ability to spread to the lungs and other organs. Despite advances in canine oncology, the prognosis for dogs with osteosarcoma has not changed in more than 20 years.  A small subset of cells within the tumor, called tumor-initiating cells, is thought to help osteosarcoma spread and resist chemotherapy. Researchers will explore the role of Frizzled-6, a protein that has been implicated in the regulation of tumor-initiating cells. A better understanding of Frizzled-6 will help researchers develop therapies that may improve outcomes for dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Timothy J. Stein, - University of Wisconsin–Madison

Sponsors:

Study ID: D15CA-059

Finding new therapy targets for mast cell tumors

Summary: Researchers will identify new therapy targets for malignant mast cell tumors, a common and aggressive cancer in dogs.

Description: Mast cell tumors account for up to 20 percent of all skin cancers in dogs, but little is known about the underlying biological mechanisms responsible for tumor growth. Researchers will use recent advances in DNA technologies to catalog genetic mutations of canine mast cell tumors. This catalog will guide a broader analysis of key cancer-driving mutations and will help identify potential new therapy targets for this common canine cancer. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Matthew Breen, North Carolina State University

Sponsors: Baird Medical Trust in memory of Stephanie and Jerry Katz, Flat-Coated Retriever Foundation, Anonymous, in memory of Grover, Pug Dog of America

Study ID: D17CA-042

Identifying a Signaling Pathway with Potential to Treat Melanoma

Malignant melanoma is a devastating cancer in dogs that has no current long-lasting therapy. The fellow will evaluate whether targeting a specific signaling pathway (canonical or noncanonical Wnt pathway) can improve treatment of malignant melanoma in dogs. Identifying a targetable signaling pathway will lead to a better, longer-term successful treatment option for this devastating disease in dogs. This Fellowship Training Grant will help the researcher gain expertise in a number of research techniques that will help her in future academic endeavors as a veterinary scientist in medical oncology. Her career goal is to become a veterinarian-clinician-scientist capable of answering cancer-related questions with clinical and basic science research.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Esther M. Chon, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Fellowship Training Grant

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14CA-405

Identifying Bone Cancer Response to Treatment

Canine osteosarcoma is a highly aggressive cancer, and despite treatment with surgery followed by chemotherapy, cancer often recurs in other bones or organs, particularly the lungs. This study identifies biomarkers that could indicate how bone cancer will respond to treatment. Results will serve as a basis of a prospective clinical trial to identify tailored chemotherapy treatments for patients.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Dawn L. Duval, Colorado State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D13CA-058

Identifying Genetic Factors of Bone Cancer

Bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, is a relatively common disease in large and giant breed dogs and a leading cause of death in some breeds, such as greyhounds and rottweilers. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small nonprotein-coding RNAs involved in the initiation and progression of cancer in humans. Researchers will use a new genetic tool developed to determine which miRNAs are expressed in canine osteosarcoma cell lines and tumors. They will also try to identify the miRNAs associated with specific breeds, those associated with an individual dog’s prognosis and survival, and those identified as targets for developing new treatments for this painful disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Joelle M. Fenger, Ohio State University, Fellowship Training Grant

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: Anonymous: for Tycho; Deborah J. Davenport, DVM, MS, DACVIM and Martin Drey, DVM, Borzoi Club of America

Study ID: D09CA-402

Identifying the Genetic Landscape of Soft-Tissue Sarcomas

Advances in next-generation gene-sequencing technology, known as deep sequencing, permit scientists to identify mutations that drive abnormal growth within a given tumor and to determine the critical pathways involved. Researchers will perform deep sequencing in 50 canine soft-tissue sarcomas and 10 unique, healthy, early-passage cells that are found in connective tissue. The researchers anticipate that they will discover about 80 genetic mutations per tumor, of which fewer than 15 will be driver mutations that are common between tumors. the number of critical pathways determined in each tumor is also likely to be fewer than 15. This information could increase understanding of soft-tissue sarcoma development and lead to novel treatments for this cancer in dogs as drugs are identified or developed to target these common mutations or pathways.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Marlene Hauck, North Carolina State University

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Anonymous, for Walter

Study ID: D12CA-071

Identifying Ways to Make Bone Tumors Less Aggressive

Researchers theorize that tumors with inactive tumor suppressor protein RB are highly aggressive, and those with active RB are less aggressive. Drugs that alter the structure and organization of DNA appear to restore RB function. This study assesses whether these drugs can convert highly aggressive canine bone tumors into less aggressive canine tumors that have a better prognosis.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jaime F. Modiano, University of Minnesota

Sponsors:

Study ID: D13CA-032

Improving Ability to Predict Cancer Spread

Soft-tissue sarcomas are common in dogs. While many are easily treated with local therapy, the disease spreads (metastasizes) and kills about one-third of affected dogs. Veterinarians can’t reliably predict which dogs will develop metastasis, making it difficult for them to determine which dogs should receive chemotherapy and whether treatment is working. Researchers will compare gene and protein expression patterns of tumors that spread to those that don’t and will use the information to develop a more reliable test for predicting metastasis. If successful, this test will help veterinarians improve canine cancer treatment and will also improve the overall understanding of this disease so that scientists can further study potential intervention therapies.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Marlene Hauck, North Carolina State University

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Anonymous, for Chris, sweet sensitive soul, cuter with every passing year and for Bones, whom my heart shall not forget nor my spirit deceive.

Study ID: D09CA-031

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