Advancing the health and well-being of animals and people

Principal Investigator: Gerlinde Van de Walle

The Baker Institute for Animal Health
Email:; Phone: 607-256-5624
Sponsor: Morris Animal Foundation
Grant Number: D12MS-002
Title: The Epigenetic Regulation of Syk in Canine and Feline Mammary Stem Cells (MaSC)
Project Amount: $67,752
Project Period: 08/01/13-02/01/14

Description (Provided by applicant): Mammary tumors are among the most common cancers in female dogs and cats. Although surgical removal remains the most widely accepted treatment option for mammary tumors in small companion animals, the high incidence of tumor recurrence and metastatic disease after surgical resection shows that current treatment regimes are unsatisfactory and that there is an urgent need for better prevention and treatment. However, before these final goals of a more efficient prevention of tumor formation and inhibition of tumor progression can be achieved, it is necessary to gain additional insights into the mechanisms of mammary cancer development. In the past, cancer research has mainly focused on identifying genomic changes that promote the development of cancer. However, it has become increasingly clear that epigenetic alterations (defined as changes in gene expression by the modification of DNA but without an actual change in the DNA sequence) are also key contributors to the development of cancer. For example, epigenetic alterations of the tumor suppressor gene SYK have been implied in tumor development and aggressiveness in human breast cancer, but its role in mammary gland tumorigenesis in small companion animals has never been investigated so far. In addition, accumulating evidence indicates that mammary stem cells (MaSC) are the primary target cells for cancer development. Since our laboratory has recently identified SYK in mammary gland tissue of dogs and cats, we propose to elucidate the epigenetic regulation of SYK in canine and feline MaSC in health and disease (cancer), because a thorough understanding on the regulation of SYK and its role in cancer development could prove to be essential for developing novel and more efficient cancer therapies.