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May 25, 2017

It’s hard to believe, but in June 2012, the first study dog, Ranger, was enrolled in the
Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. Nearly three years later, in March 2015, the study reached full enrollment. As we approach the study’s fifth anniversary, we wanted to review the cancer diagnosis endpoints and update our current cancer statistics for the many participants, study veterinarians and supporters who have made the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study possible.

What are the primary cancers the study is interested in?

Our primary endpoints for the study are: lymphoma, mast cell tumor, hemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma. These cancers represent some of the most common cancers seen in dogs regardless of breed, but also are common in golden retrievers. As of April 28, 2017, 47 dogs have been diagnosed with malignancies and 17 have been diagnosed with one of our primary endpoint cancers:

  • Lymphoma – 15 cases, 8 deceased
  • High grade mast cell tumor – 1 case, no deaths
  • Hemangiosarcoma – 1 case, 1 death
  • Osteosarcoma – 0 cases, no deaths

We expect these numbers to rise as our cohort ages. We continue to record every detail of our participants’ health records, including diagnosis of other diseases (such as kidney disease or cancers not among the primary endpoints), and clinical signs such as vomiting and diarrhea. Taken together, these data will provide a unique glimpse into health outcomes in real time, as well as point to links between disease and environmental, genetic and nutritional factors.

Mast cell tumors undergoing a grade change

A quick word about mast cell tumors. Mast cell tumors are one of the most common tumors found in dogs, but their behavior is anything but predictable. Pathologists use a grading system as a way of categorizing these tumors, which helps when comparing studies or talking with pet owners. Many dog owners are familiar with the Grade 1-3 system, but this older system is being replaced with a newer two-tiered system; low-grade and high-grade. Low-grade mast cell tumors are treatable (and often curable) and tend to be slow to spread or metastasize. High-grade tumors are very aggressive, spreading rapidly not only locally but to distant sites, and carry a much higher risk of mortality. For purposes of the study, high-grade mast cell tumors are considered a primary endpoint. Low-grade mast cell tumors are considered secondary endpoints. All cancer diagnoses are confirmed by a board-certified pathologist, who makes the final “call” on tumor type, ensuring consistency.

Thank you to our participants

Cancer is a devastating disease for both owners and their pets, but learning more about risk factors for this disease could not only save the lives of thousands of dogs, but provide important insights into cancers affecting other animals and even humans. Morris Animal Foundation wants to thank everyone participating and supporting the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, and remember the hero dogs who’ve passed from cancer; their contribution has been immeasurable.

How can you help?

You can support pet cancer research during Morris Animal Foundation’s Unite to Fight Pet Cancer campaign that runs through June 30. Funds raised during the campaign will support the Foundation’s animal cancer research projects in dogs, cats, horses and even wildlife. Thanks to a generous gift from the Blue Buffalo Foundation, all donations will be matched up to $50,000 until June 30. Please make your gift today for double the impact and let’s Unite to Fight Pet Cancer!