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PLoS Genet. 2015 Jun 1;11(6):e1005277. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005277. eCollection 2015 Jun.

Canine spontaneous head and neck squamous cell carcinomas represent their human counterparts at the molecular level.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute of Bioinformatics, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States of America.
College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States of America.
Department of Biostatistics, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States of America.
Winship Cancer Center, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.


Spontaneous canine head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) represents an excellent model of human HNSCC but is greatly understudied. To better understand and utilize this valuable resource, we performed a pilot study that represents its first genome-wide characterization by investigating 12 canine HNSCC cases, of which 9 are oral, via high density array comparative genomic hybridization and RNA-seq. The analyses reveal that these canine cancers recapitulate many molecular features of human HNSCC. These include analogous genomic copy number abnormality landscapes and sequence mutation patterns, recurrent alteration of known HNSCC genes and pathways (e.g., cell cycle, PI3K/AKT signaling), and comparably extensive heterogeneity. Amplification or overexpression of protein kinase genes, matrix metalloproteinase genes, and epithelial-mesenchymal transition genes TWIST1 and SNAI1 are also prominent in these canine tumors. This pilot study, along with a rapidly growing body of literature on canine cancer, reemphasizes the potential value of spontaneous canine cancers in HNSCC basic and translational research.

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