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W17-011: A viral gene expression analysis towards preventing feline lymphoma

The number of pet cats being diagnosed with lymphoma, the most common malignant cancer of cats, is increasing. With few exceptions, cats diagnosed with lymphoma will endure suffering and premature death. To improve outcomes for feline lymphoma patients researchers strive to better understand the causes of lymphoma and other cancers. Infection causes 20% of human cancers. The identification of cancer-causing viruses in cats provides a unique opportunity to achieve the ultimate goal, cancer prevention through vaccination.

In 2013, a gammaherpesvirus, FcaGHV1, was discovered in domestic cats. Whether FcaGHV1 causes cancer in cats is a research priority. Researchers also know that other species infected with similar viruses usually remain healthy. But, in small percentage of infections, the virus causes fatal lymphomas. Given that an estimated 200 million cats worldwide are infected with FcaGHV1, the virus could currently be responsible for a great many cases of lymphoma.

In this study, the primary investigators will probe individual lymphoma cells for FcaGHV1. Stored diagnostic samples from clinical cases will be examined using a technique called in situ hybridization. Because they are investigating a newly discovered feline virus they need to custom-design tools for this research. Colored probes that bind to active virus genes will be developed. Cancer cells containing active virus can be seen under the microscope as different colors. Digital analysis using specialized software is used for precise quantification of virus gene expression.

The greatest significance of this work for cat health lies in the potential to develop cancer-preventing vaccines.

Speckles Abdominal Cancer Study (Sponsored by Kitty Kollar™ and Donna Garrou in memory of Quasimodo)

Grant ID: W17-011

Status: Active

Year Funded: 2017

Amount awarded: $23,073

Investigator: Julia Beatty, PhD, Mahdis Aghazadeh, PhD, Vanessa Barrs, PhD; University of Sydney