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Sequencing the genes of dogs with acute myeloid leukemia

black white and gold dog lying on stone pathway

Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the blood. Although uncommon, it is a highly aggressive form of cancer and often kills dogs quickly, particularly because we don’t have many drugs that we can use to treat the leukemia. Great strides have been made in humans with acute myeloid leukemia, which is similar to the disease we see in dogs.

New treatments have been developed for people with acute myeloid leukemia, patients live longer with the disease than they used to (most people usually died from the disease within 3 years of diagnosis), and the disease can be more accurately divided into subtypes, which provide better information on treatment and prognosis. In fact, treatments are often tailored to the specific subtype of leukemia in the patient, which is now called precision medicine. All of these improvements in the diagnosis, treatment and prognostication of acute myeloid leukemia in humans have been made possible by genetic testing and identification of specific genetic defects or mutations that are responsible for the tumor.

However, unlike humans, we know very little about the genetic mutations that underlie acute myeloid leukemia in dogs, which is the goal of this study. In a multi-institutional study involving blood cancer specialists in veterinary and human medicine, we will perform in-depth genetic analysis of 50 dogs with acute myeloid leukemia by sequencing the genes within the tumor. Relevant genetic mutations will be identified by comparing gene sequences of the cancer cells to those of normal tissue, which we will retrieve from standard mouth swabs. From this genetic analysis, we hope to identify mutations in acute myeloid leukemia in dogs that would be responsive to newer treatments or that we could target for development of new drugs. We also hope to more accurately classify dogs into subtypes, which would help us better inform owners of prognosis and treat the dogs with more appropriate therapy, thereby prolonging their life, just like we have in humans. 

Eligibility: This is a sample-collection only study for dogs with acute leukemia. Your dog must have evidence of an acute leukemia on a complete blood count (CBC).

Compensation: The grant will cover the cost of specific tests (such as flow cytometry) to confirm the diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia.

Owner Responsibilities: You will be asked to allow us to collect a small amount of additional blood and a mouth swab for DNA, to sign a consent form, and to send us a copy of your dog's medical records. There are no further obligations or responsibilities.

Principal Investigator: Tracy Stokol, BVSc, DACVP

Sponsor: This research is funded by a grant from the Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center and the AKC Canine Health Foundation (link is to an external site) 

Contact/Schedule an Appointment: Please contact the clinical trials coordinator at 607.253.3060, or email Your referring veterinarian may also contact the hospital or clinical trials coordinator to either refer your pet or to arrange to send us samples. If you are participating remotely, we will send you or your vet a collection kit, consent form, and prepaid shipping label.

Other Participating Institutions: Cornell University Veterinary Specialists in Stamford, CT, Rochester Specialist and Emergency Services, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Tennessee, and University of Georgia.