Supervisors: Dr Collette Taylor, Prof Dave Brodbelt, Dr Dan O’Neill and Dr Sandra Guillen 

Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences and Clinical Science and Services 

Project Details


Mast cell tumours (MCT) are a common cancer in dogs (Shoop et al., 2015). Some studies have reported that factors such as MCT location and number and dog breed could affect the aggressiveness of the cancer and survival time with a MCT diagnosis (Kiupel et al., 2005; Smiech et al., 2018).  

This project will explore the frequency of MCT in dogs and factors associated with survival using two populations: the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study (GRLS) and VetCompass. Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) has established a lifetime cohort of Golden Retrievers (GRLS) in the US, which is now nearing the end of its life (Guy et al. 2015). VetCompass collects anonymised electronic patient records (EPRs) from a large number of clinics across the UK. Using lifetime data in VetCompass and the GRLS cohort, the survival time of dogs diagnosed with MCTs of different histological grades and locations will be explored. Associations between survival and signalment, lifestyle and animal factors will be evaluated. 


  1. To estimate an updated frequency of MCTs across all types of dogs in the UK within VetCompass and determine the frequency of MCTs in the GRLS cohort  
  2. Report MCT survival times in both the GRLS cohort and dogs in the UK within VetCompass  
  3. Explore lifestyle, animal and tumour factors associated with survival time in both populations  


Using the GRLS cohort of approximately 3,000 Golden Retrievers with a complete life history, MCT cases will be identified. Factors associated with MCT survival will be derived from data from the yearly owner and veterinarian questionnaires and will focus on tumour/s location, animal signalment and lifestyle (diet, activity, home environment, location).  In the VetCompass study, cases of MCT will be identified from the electronic health records of dogs under veterinary care within VetCompass during 2016. Survival time and factors associated with this will be explored.


  1. Guy, M. K., R. L. Page, W. A. Jensen, P. N. Olson, J. D. Haworth, E. E. Searfoss and D. E. Brown (2015). "The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study: establishing an observational cohort study with translational relevance for human health." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 370(1673).  

  2. Kiupel M, Webster JD, Miller RA, Kaneene JB. Impact of tumour depth, tumour location and multiple synchronous masses on the prognosis of canine cutaneous mast cell tumours. J Vet Med A Physiol Pathol Clin Med. 2005 Aug;52(6):280-6. Doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0442.2005.00726.x. PMID: 16050909.  

  3. Shoop, S., S. Marlow, D. Church, K. English, P. McGreevy, A. Stell, P. Thomson, D. O'Neill and D. Brodbelt (2015). "Prevalence and risk factors for mast cell tumours in dogs in England." Canine Genetics and Epidemiology 2(1): 1.   

  4. Śmiech, A., Ślaska, B., Łopuszyński, W. et al. Epidemiological assessment of the risk of canine mast cell tumours based on the Kiupel two-grade malignancy classification. Acta Vet Scand 60, 70 (2018).   



  • Must meet our standard MRes entry requirements.
  • Do not need to be a vet or have an epidemiological background but must have a background in animal science. 


  • Experience of primary-care veterinary practice.
  • A primary degree in veterinary medicine.
  • Clinical experience and interest in oncology.
  • Experience of epidemiology.

This can be taken full-time or part-time (12months FTE), project commencing in October 2024, based at RVC's Hawkshead campus. 


Fully Funded: The project costs and “Home” tuition fees are covered by funding from Morris Animal Foundation. The student will receive a stipend. 

International applicants are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between "Home" and "Overseas" tuition fees. Please note that EU/EEA and Swiss national students may no longer be eligible for the “Home” rate of tuition fees, dependent on personal circumstances (including immigration status and residence history in the UK) and UK government rules which are currently being developed. For up-to-date information on fees for EU/EEA and Swiss national students following Brexit please see our fees and funding page. 

How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English Language requirements see How to Apply.

Deadline: 1pm UK time, Friday 5th April

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to Dr Collette Taylor (

Interview date and location: TBC

Top of page