Cross-species cancer comparison uncovers new drug targets, study reveals
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Credit: University of Guelph

New drug targets for a rare form of melanoma may result from the discovery of similar genetic mutations found in humans, dogs and horses under a first-ever tri-species DNA sequencing study involving a University of Guelph researcher.

Melanoma is a cancer that most commonly occurs in the skin in people, but a subtype called mucosal melanoma arises in non-skin locations such as sinuses, nasal passages and mouth. Oral melanoma in dogs is much more common than in humans and also has a poor prognosis, while melanoma in horses is generally less aggressive.

Currently there are no known risk factors for this cancer in humans, which is often diagnosed late. In all species, the main treatment is surgical removal of the tumour.

Published in Nature Communications, the study was designed to pinpoint key genes that are mutated in mucosal melanoma.

The study was the first to compare cancer genomes across human, canine and equine tumours, the first to sequence horse tumours and the first sequencing study of this scale on dog melanoma.

Comparing cancers across species may help in pinpointing the most relevant drug targets, said pathobiology researcher

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