We can learn a lot from our dogs but the one thing that dogs share with humans is being diagnosed with cancer. Cancer in dogs is on the rise just as it is in humans. For pets over the age of 10 years old, it is the leading cause of death.
Realizing that cancer exists in dogs can be beneficial to cancer research. A promising means to help in finding a cure for cancer is called “comparative oncology.” Clues to treat cancer more effectively involves comparative oncology research that studies the similarities between naturally occurring cancers in pets and cancers in people.
Presently, there are 22 sites across the country including Colorado State University (CSU), where phase 1 and 2 clinical trials in comparative oncology are underway. The research is conducted at CSU by a surgical oncologist for animals.
The veterinarians, physicians, cancer specialists and basic scientists, who provide research in this field, has more than ever, been leading to improved human health and more rapid access to effective cancer treatment. It has not been possible through traditional approaches to cancer research.
Dogs have strong physiologic and genetic similarities to people. Mice mice do not typically live long enough for us to know whether they naturally get cancer but we know that pet rats can get cancer. Scientists inject laboratory mice with cancer rather than it occurring naturally in their bodies. Field mice lives are typically ended by predators so they don’t live long enough to get cancer.
In 2003, scientists decoded the canine genome just as they officially mapped the human genome, or the complete set of genetic instructions. It was discovered that dogs have more than 80 percent genetic similarity to humans, with only 67 percent for mice.
Cancer that spontaneously arise in pet dogs are microscopically and molecularly identical to cancers in people. It includes cancers such as bone cancer, lymphoma and bladder cancer. The same mutations that cause cancer in dogs are many of the genetic mutations that drive cells to become cancerous in people. In fact, it is impossible to distinguish between a tumor from a human and a dog when viewed under a microscope.
In the study of medicine dogs provide a large and varied population to study which is important. The population diversity of dogs is very similar to that in humans. It includes variation in different dog breeds, diet, home environments, and overall lifestyle. Laboratory mice live in a highly regulated environment and are essentially identical twins to each other.
Dog owners are highly motivated to seek out improved options for their pets in managing cancer. Their dogs receive high-quality health care into old age in efforts to minimize side effects of cancer treatments.