Animal Health Trust

Genetic Study on Osteosarcoma In Leonbergers



The Animal Health Trust ( is a charity, and a research institute, that has been helping dogs, cats and horses for more than half a century. The Trust provides specialist veterinary clinical, diagnostic and surgical services, and is dedicated to the study of canine, equine and feline diseases. In collaboration with researchers in the United States, the Oncology Research Group at the Animal Health Trust is seeking to identify the one, or more, inherited gene defects that are responsible for Leonbergers having an increased risk of developing osteosarcoma.

Osteosarcoma is associated with increasing height (and weight) and therefore the highest prevalence is in large and giant breeds. However, some families within these breeds are particularly affected, suggesting an inherited predisposition. ‘Bone cancer’ was one of the two cancers specified as the main cause of death in Leonbergers in the 2004 KC-BSAVA Purebred Dog Health Survey conducted by the AHT. In the long term, we hope that the research will lead to the development of DNA tests to identify dogs that have an increased risk of developing osteosarcoma, allowing breeders to take this into consideration in their breeding programmes. The identification of ‘osteosarcoma susceptibility genes’ will also increase understanding of how these tumours develop, thereby ultimately assisting the development of new treatments.


In order to enable the research we are looking to collect samples from Leos (of any age) affected by osteosarcoma, and Leos that are at least 7 years old and have never had any form of cancer. Further details about the samples that we are seeking follow at the bottom of this article. However, cheek swab kits will be available to owners attending the Stoneleigh Park championship show on 13th November. Each cheek swab kit contains two swabs, an instruction sheet, and a sample submission/consent form that requests a five generation pedigree and identification information (KC registered name and number, Microchip and/or tattoo number). As a two hour interval between a dog eating and swabs being collected is required the intention is not for owners to collect swabs on the day of the championship show, but to take the swabs away and collect samples at a convenient time. The cost of the postage incurred in submitting cheek swab samples for the research study to return the swabs to the AHT will be covered by prepaid envelopes provided at the show.


Dr. Mike Starkey

Oncology Research Group

September 2011


Leonberger owners can help the osteosarcoma study by submitting 2 types of sample:

1). Blood/cheek swab samplePlease submit a sample if your dog has a suspected osteosarcoma OR is at least 7 years old and has never had any type of cancer:If your vet is taking a blood sample for a clinical reason and there is some blood left over, ask the vet to save a surplus sample (1-2ml) in an EDTA tube and send it to the AHT (address below)ORContact the AHT (details below)

OR LCGB Health Subcommittee to request a cheek swab kit (includes instructions).

Collect some cells from the inside of your dog’s cheek and then send the cheek swabs to the AHT


2). Tumour sample If your dog has a suspected osteosarcoma: Ask your vet to place a small piece (a 3-5mm cube) of the biopsy of the suspected tumour (normally removed for diagnostic histopathology) in a special preservative (‘RNAlater’) provided by the AHT upon request (details below) 


For any queries or more information about the project, please contact: Dr. Mike Starkey (Tel: +44 1638 555603; E-mail:


To submit a blood sample, or request a cheek swab kit and/or an RNAlater sample tube (for a tumour biopsy), please contact the Oncology Research Group (leave a message by telephoning 01638 751000 extension 1214, or E-mail: Animal Health Trust, Lanwades Park, Kentford, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 7UU, UK.