NC State University
Area of interest
The focus of my research program over the past decade has been to investigate the role of the domestic dog as a comparative biomedical model with an emphasis on the cytogenetic aspects of cancer research. The power of a canine model for cancer research lays fundamentally in the unique demographic history of many dog breeds. Domestic dogs are organized into more than 350 phenotypically distinct genetic isolates, termed breeds, which are characterized by unique constellations of morphology, behavior, and susceptibility to naturally occurring diseases, including numerous cancers. Many breeds of dog have been developed by generations of tightly controlled breeding over a relatively short time (100-400 years), during which the restricted gene flow between breeds, combined with moderate to high levels of inbreeding, has resulted in modern dog breeds with considerably reduced genetic heterogeneity. Genetic investigations of canine diseases may thus be conducted amongst a reduced level of the background noise that is usually associated with investigations of more heterogeneous genomes such as our own. Identifying disease-associated genes (or even gene expression patterns) in dog breeds is therefore likely to be simpler than in human populations.
Cancers in dogs occur spontaneously and so canine tumor genomes are expected to reflect the natural variety of genetic lesions that are observed in human cancer genomes, a feature that is not evident with induced rodent tumors. Furthermore, the pathophysiological similarities between naturally occurring human and dog diseases, combined with recent advances in veterinary medicine, allow the dog to be considered as an ideal second species for comparative and translational research, providing genetic resources and clinical data to fill gaps between fundamental research in rodents and human clinical studies.
Over the past decade my lab has played a pivotal role in developing the molecular cytogenetic resources that are required to support the role of the dog as a model system for genetic studies.
Awards and Honors
- 1986 Sir W. H. Tate University Undergraduate Scholarship for outstanding achievement in Science
- 2004 Faculty Professional Research and Development Award (NCSU).
- 2006 Pfizer Award for Excellence in Veterinary Research (NCSU).
- 2006 NCSU Alumni Outstanding Research Award
- 2007 Asa Mays Award for Excellence in Canine Health Research