Matthew Breen :: PhD :: C.Biol :: FRSB ::
Professor of Genomics and the Oscar J. Fletcher Distinguished Professor of Comparative Oncology Genetics

Wildlife Genetics and Cancer

Free ranging and captive wildlife suffer from a diverse range of health concerns, one of which is cancer. We are interested in using molecular cytogenetics to study the genome organization of cancer cells in malignancies diagnosed in wildlife.

Cancer in wildlife has recently received increasing attention as we appreciate the wide range of health impacts of environmental change on both humans and animals, and that wild animals can serve as sentinels for human health. Every year approximately 200 live adult California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) strand along the west coast of the USA and are admitted to animal hospitals for care. Strikingly, almost 20% of adult animals that die in treatment have aggressive, widely metastatic carcinomas of urogenital origin. The cause or causes of such a high prevalence of tumors in this population is unknown. As a member of the Sea Lion Cancer Consortium (SLiCC), we are investigating the genomics of urogenital carcinomas in stranded and beached sea lions.

Our work with urogenital cancers in California sea lions has been investigating DNA sequence changes detected by whole exome sequencing of tumor DNA samples. Isabella Livingston has been working with a team of four undergraduate students to explore genes of interest. The data genetated by the students were presented at the Fall 2022 NC State Undergraduate Research symposium.

Below the five gather for a team photo.

Left to right: Kevin Gil, Gabe Evans, Isabella Livingston, Yamini Saggurthi, Maddy Warren.