The Mason lab at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is investigating the
possibility that a gammaherpesvirus can infect dogs and may contribute to lymphoma. The virus is thought to be highly similar to Epstein-Barr Virus that infects the majority of humans.
In most humans, infection is asymptomatic (no clinical signs), but in a very small subset of people, the virus is associated with lymphomas. Mason’s lab has shown that some dogs (like people) can be infected with an EBV-like virus and that this appears to be associated with lymphoma in some cases (Evidence of an oncogenic gammaherpesvirus in domestic dogs. Huang et al. Virology. 2012 Mar 7).
Using a relatively simple blood test, Mason’s lab can determine whether dogs have been exposed to an EBV-like virus. They now aim to screen approximately 500 healthy Golden Retriever dogs between 6 and 8 years of age to determine whether they are infected with the virus.
Participating dogs were evaluated every 6 months for 2 years to determine whether the presence of increasing amounts of virus and antibodies to the virus predicts which dogs many go on to develop lymphoma.
The study aims to provide very important information about a possible environmental cause of cancer and may lead to future anti-viral therapies for cancer. This study is supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Who Took Part in the Study
Owners of healthy Golden Retrievers were invited to participate in an unprecedented study to investigate the possibility that a particular virus (a gammaherpesvirus) can infect Golden Retriever dogs and that this infection contributes to the development of lymphoma in some dogs.
Samples Required for the Study
The study involved taking a blood sample from your dog once every six months for two years.
If a dog developed lymphoma while on the study, a biopsy of the malignant lymph node tissue was taken and used to confirm the diagnosis and determine whether this virus was involved in the tumor.