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Building on basics

The truth about cats and dogs

UC Davis is the ideal setting for this kind of collaborative effort. It's home to nationally ranked veterinary, agriculture and medical schools and a place where scientists from across disciplines come together to answer medical questions.

One of the questions London is pursuing involves a proto-oncogene called c-kit. In its healthy state, c-kit regulates cell differentiation in mast cells. Damaged, it becomes part of a chain of events that makes these cells grow out of control.

Mast cells are found in all tissues of the body, especially in those that serve as ports of entry: the skin, lungs and intestinal tract. They play an important role in allergies and asthma and in protecting the body from bacterial infections.

Mast cell cancer is rare in people but extremely common in dogs, usually manifesting as tumors in the skin. Some breeds are more susceptible than others, pointing to genetic influences.

A few years ago, in collabora- tion with Stephen Galli, a leading researcher in the field of mast cells, London identified mutations in c-kit that led to uncontrolled func- tion of the protein. Researchers have since found similar mutations in at least two forms of human cancer: stromal tumors of the stomach and acute myelogenous leukemia.


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