Dogs help dig for cancer answers New research is using dog tumors to learn more about human tumors.
By Christine L. Chen
1 hour ago
I’m still heartbroken over the loss of my dog to cancer in August. A golden retriever, she held her Frisbee until her last breath. I lost my first golden to cancer, too.
Pets are companions, family members and best friends, and now they may share more than just a spiritual connection to us. Apparently, there is little difference between tumors found in dogs and humans about 80 percent of the time, and that scientific, physical connection might give us clues about human cancer. New research
at Princeton University is underway to figure out the common links between animals and humans who have cancer. Luke Robinson, who founded a nonprofit called Two Million Dogs
when he lost his Great Pyrenees at age six to bone cancer, has made the study possible.
Inspired, he launched fundraising Puppy-Up Walks
across the country to raise money for cancer research. The group recently granted Princeton $50,000 for both biologists and veterinary oncologists to collaborate in a search for genetic markers, which might unlock information about which tumors are more likely to be malignant.
As part of the study, shelter dogs with tumors get free treatment, so researchers can examine glands and masses at different stages of development. The first phase is learning how breast cancer tumors go from benign to malignant. Dogs have multiple mammary glands and can develop multiple tumors – up to seven masses. The researchers all have a personal stake in their work; one lost her German shepherd to cancer a few years ago.
Our canine friends can give us more answers than mice, because their physiology is more similar to the way human hormones link to breast cancer.
"Dogs get all the same cancers that humans get," said Chand Khanna, the director of the Comparative Oncology Program at the Center for Cancer Research, which is part of the U.S. National Cancer Institute. "With dogs, we can ask many questions that one cannot ask in mouse preclinical models of cancer and cannot answer in human clinical trials ."
Whatever answers are retrieved from this research, it gets us one step closer to successful treatment of both humans and dogs hit with cancer. I know there are many of you out there who would agree with me: There would be nothing better than if we could sit, stay and play with our pets as long as humanly – and “caninely” – possible.