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.