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THE PROBLEM: Ghrelin is a hormone that causes the sensation of hunger but also plays a role in cancer. Research has extensively evaluated the role of ghrelin in cancer development and progression in humans, though it is still not entirely clear whether it causes or prevents cancer. Less is known about the role of ghrelin in canine cancers. 

THE PROJECT: To help answer these questions, researchers will study banked tissue samples of canine pancreatic cancers to determine if these tumors express ghrelin and its receptor (GSH-R). The pancreas contains two types of cells: endocrine and exocrine. Endocrine pancreas cells are responsible for insulin production, which allows cells to take up glucose. Exocrine pancreas cells secrete enzymes that aid in food digestion.  The team chose to focus on pancreatic tumors since the level and activity of ghrelin can be affected by insulin secretion and food digestion. Also, synthetic versions of ghrelin now exist as appetite stimulants for sick dogs and cats. However, researchers have limited knowledge about the impact of the ghrelin appetite stimulant on the growth of cancer in these patients. 

POTENTIAL IMPACT: Findings from this study will help define the role of ghrelin in canine pancreatic cancer and if ghrelin and its receptor are possible biomarkers for early disease detection.   

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Grant amount awarded
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Michigan State University   
Study country
United States
Alison Masyr, DVM, MS, DACVIM   
Study category