The AGSDCF is proud to work with the AKC's Charitable Health Foundation in support of the new Clinician-Scientist Fellowship program for young heath researchers.
These fellowships are given to the top 5 Colleges of Veterinary Medicine that have consistently used AKC/CHF research funding to make major contributions to canine health. Each fellowship includes $10,000 for research and $2000 for presentation of research results at a national scientific meeting.
As young scientists have not yet established a track record of research success, these fellowship awards will be given to veterinary residents upon the recommendation of their college.
Dr. Vincent Baldanza, VMD, is a veterinary oncology resident at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Baldanza will be working under the mentorship of Dr. Angela McCleary-Wheeler on 'The Role of Canonical Hedgehog Signaling in Canine Osteosarcoma.'Canine osteosarcoma (cOSA), the most common primary bone cancer in dogs, is a highly aggressive tumor with an estimated spread (or metastasis) rate of approximately 90%.
Even with surgery and chemotherapy, the median survival time remains only 10-12 months. The pathogenesis, disease course, and treatment response of cOSA closely parallels that of human pediatric OSA (hOSA), and it has thus been proposed as a spontaneous animal model of the disease. ln hOSA, the Hedgehog (HH) developmental and cellular signaling pathway has been documented to contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease, impacting genes responsible for tumor formation and metastasis. While a critical pathway during development and maintenance of normal bone, increased activity of HH signaling can lead to tumor formation.
Building off of the data in hOSA, Dr. Baldanza's study will address the hypothesis that HH signaling is also active in cOSA, and targeted inhibition of the pathway will negatively impact and slow OSA cell growth and survival. They will study canine genes of interesl to this pathway in both cOSA tumor specimens and cOSA cell lines in culture. The results provided by these studies willfurther explore the role of HH signaling in cOSA and act as a foundation for future experiments and clinicaltrials exploring more efficacious, targeted therapeutics for the treatment of this devastating disease in dogs.
This work may also provide more evidence for this comparative model of cancer to benefit both human and canine cancer research
Canine degenerative myelopathy (DM) is an adult onset progressive neurodegenerative disease in dogs that shares many characteristics with inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in humans. ALS triggers a deterioration of the nerves that connect the brain to the muscles, leading to stiffness, slowing of movement, loss of muscle tissue and weakness. Dogs with DM initially develop incoordination and progressive weakness of their rear legs resulting in paralysis within one year from onset of signs. We believe that naturally-occurring canine DM will provide a useful disease model for ALS therapy development because dogs with DM have clinical signs that are similar to human ALS symptoms.
The immune system, specifically microglia, the primary immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS), has been implicated in ALS disease progression. The rodent models have shown that microglial cells, which normally provide an immune defense for the central nervous system, become abnormally activated in ALS to produce neurotoxicity. Therapeutics targeting microglia have slowed disease progression in rodent models, but have failed to translate into effective therapy for ALS patients.
The focus of Dr. Sibigtroth’s research is to characterize the role of microglia in DM progression. This study will examine the hypothesis that the normal communication between motor neurons and microglia is disrupted in DM, inducing a behavioral change in microglia cells. Microglia will transition from a neuroprotective to neurotoxic behavior, leading to progressive motor neuron damage and dysfunction. Owners of companion dogs with DM tend to have their pets euthanized at different stages of disease severity and examination of the donated tissues from these dogs will provide an effective way to study the various stages of DM progression. This work will provide valuable insight into the role of microglia within canine DM disease progression and could identify key areas for the development of microglia-specific therapeutic targets that could slow or halt further disease progression.
The AGSDCF is proud to announce that it is the sole sponsor of this important fellowship.