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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

Looking for New Targeted Therapies for Osteosarcoma in Dogs

Signaling pathways are groups of molecules in a cell that work together to control one or more cell functions, such as cell division or cell death. Recent studies have shown that the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling pathway is often abnormally activated in a variety of human tumors. Researchers will explore the role of increased expression of FGF protein molecules in canine osteosarcoma cells. They will then evaluate the effect of inhibiting the FGF pathway with a targeted drug. Understanding how abnormally activated signaling pathways affect cancer’s development and how to reverse their effects on tumor progression and chemotherapy resistance will help in the development of new targeted therapies for dogs with osteosarcoma.  

Principal Investigator: Dr. Deanna D. Dailey, Colorado State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D15CA-316

MADGiC: Making Advanced Discoveries in Golden Cancers

Golden retrievers have been one of the most popular breeds in America for decades, but unfortunately these dogs also have one of the highest incidences of cancer. Hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma account for more than 30 percent of the deaths in this breed. Although breed susceptibility to cancer was first reported 30 years ago, the relationship between inherited traits and susceptibility for these cancers is still not known. The Golden Retriever Foundation and Morris Animal Foundation are funding MADGiC (Making Advanced Discoveries in Golden Cancers), a study that aims to discover and characterize heritable and somatic cancer mutations in golden retrievers. The three-year, $1 million project will examine heritable (genetic) traits that contribute to risk and progression of hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers. The long-term goal is to understand what causes these diseases. Because both cancers occur with such high frequency, reducing their incidence (while retaining the positive phenotypes of the breed) will be a complex task, but the development of reliable genetic tests would allow breeders to build programs whereby high-risk combinations of factors could be avoided. In addition, effective strategies could be developed to control and treat hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers and other dogs, and as importantly, what is learned from this research also may be applicable to develop effective prevention and treatment strategies for these diseases in people.

Principal Investigator: Principal Investigator: Drs. Jaime F. Modiano, Matthew Breen and Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Institutions: North Carolina State University, University of Minnesota and Uppsala University, Sweden

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: Golden Retriever Foundation & Morris Animal Foundation; American Spaniel Club Foundation; Flat-Coated Retriever Foundation; Portuguese Water Dog Foundation; CTW Foundation, Inc.; Carol Lattimer, in memory of Annie Bear

Study ID: D10CA-501

Measuring chemotherapy drug resistance in dogs with T-cell lymphoma

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.

Principal Investigator: Paul R. Hess, DVM, PhD, North Carolina State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D16CA-056

MicroRNA Expression Profiling of Canine Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma, commonly known as bone cancer, is a significant cause of death in large and giant breed dogs. Because cancer is believed to be fundamentally a genetic disease, genomic approaches are needed to study canine bone cancer. Scientists have determined that microRNAs (miRNAs), small nonprotein-coding molecules, play an important role in a variety of human cancers. Using a custom microarray technology, which the investigators have developed in their laboratories, researchers will identify which miRNAs are expressed in osteosarcoma and which are associated with certain breeds and prognoses. By studying miRNA expression in osteosarcoma, the investigators hope to identify new molecular targets for therapy that will lead to better treatment of this disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. W.C. Kisseberth, The Ohio State University

Sponsors: Fully Sponsored: Doreen Jakubcak & Michael Malchow; Portuguese Water Dog foundation, Inc.; GREYlong

Study ID: D07CA-034

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

Summary: 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 the Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

Description: 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. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. E.J. Ehrhart, Colorado State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D16CLP-001

Pfizer-CCOGC Biospecimen Repository

The Pfizer-CCOGC Biospecimen Repository is a national canine tumor-tissue bank that will help members of the Canine Comparative Oncology and Genetics Consortium (CCOGC) study different types of cancer. Once completed, the tissue bank will contain some 3,000 samples of osteosarcoma, lymphoma, melanoma and other cancers. These high-quality samples will be used to develop new treatments for cancer and will be an especially valuable asset in the quest to treat and cure cancer in dogs. They also may provide insights into human cancer.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Matthew Breen, Canine Comparative Oncology & Genomics Consortium

Sponsors:

Study ID: D06CA-500

Predicting chemotherapy drug response for dogs with bone cancer

Each year, at least 8,000 dogs in the United States are diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a painful and aggressive bone cancer that originates in the bone. Current treatment options include amputation of the affected limb followed by chemotherapy to curb cancer metastasis or spread. Recent studies have shown that cancer gene signatures – patterns of how genes are expressed within individual tumors – can predict whether a tumor will respond to a specific chemotherapy drug. Determining a tumor’s gene signature allows patients to be treated with drugs most likely to provide the greatest therapeutic benefit. The research team will test a newly developed, computer-based, gene-expression model’s ability to determine the best chemotherapy protocol for dogs with osteosarcoma based on the tumor’s gene signature.

Principal Investigator: Daniel L. Gustafson, PhD, Colorado State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D16CA-003

Re-directed T cell therapy in dogs with B cell lymphoma

Summary: This study will investigate the use of a state-of-the-art genetic approach to generate anti-tumor immune responses that will kill tumor cells and prevent tumor recurrence in dogs with B cell lymphoma. 

Description: White blood cells known as T lymphocytes are part of the immune system and play an important role in recognizing and killing tumors. In patients with cancer the number and function of these cells is impaired allowing tumors to grow and spread. In this study we aim to genetically modify canine T lymphocytes so that we can generate large numbers that are highly functional and specifically recognize and kill tumor cells. In the first part of the study we will investigate ways to optimize gene transfer into dog T lymphocytes and demonstrate the ability of these genetically modified cells to kill target cells in the laboratory. In the second part of this study, we will perform a phase I clinical trial in client owned dogs with relapsed, refractory B cell lymphoma to determine whether genetically modified T lymphocytes given back to the patient expand, persist and kill tumor. If successful, this approach should lead to tumor regression and persistent remission in dogs with B cell lymphoma.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Nicola J. Mason, University of Pennsylvania

Sponsors:

Study ID:

Residency Training in Veterinary Oncology at the University of Minnesota

Morris Animal Foundation, through the generous sponsorship of a philanthropic donor, will support a three-year residency training program in veterinary and comparative oncology at the University of Minnesota. The clinical training component is designed according to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine guidelines and will emphasize diagnosis and care of companion animals with cancer. The research component will provide the trainee with fundamental exposure to the laboratory setting and opportunities to pursue an advanced degree or enter a fellowship program. The overall goal of the comparative oncology training program at the University of Minnesota is to prepare new scientists for careers in clinical academic practice and cancer biology research as a means to address the shortage in these critical areas of the profession. Financial support for new talent is an investment in future cures and treatments for cancer patients.

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

Sponsors:

Study ID: D08CA-501

Role of exosomes in biological behavior of canine osteosarcoma

Description: Cancer cells from virtually every tumor have the potential to spread to other parts of the body, but only rare cells from certain tumor types actually survive and grow (metastasize). In the case of bone cancer, metastatic disease is the cause of death in nearly every patient. Researchers do not fully understand how bone cancer cells spread from the primary site in the bone to the lungs, but recent work suggests that the tumors send out small “sacs” (vesicles) into the bloodstream. Researchers will investigate how the contents of these vesicles deliver signals that modify normal cells in distant organs and allow growth of metastatic tumors. This new information will improve our understanding of cancer spread and help researchers develop more effective treatments for dogs with osteosarcoma.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Alicia J. Donnelly, University of Minnesota

Sponsors:

Study ID:

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