Many of the genetic mutations that drive cells to become cancerous in people are the same mutations that cause cancer in dogs. Cancers such as bone cancer, lymphoma and bladder cancer that spontaneously arise in pet dogs are microscopically and molecularly identical to cancers in people. In fact, when viewed under a microscope, it is impossible to distinguish between a tumor from a human and a dog.
The genetic diversity and sharing of similar DNA, physiology, microscopic structure and molecular features between dogs and humans has presented cancer researchers with a key opportunity. Dogs not only develop similar types of cancers as humans, but their cancer responds to treatments in similar ways. This means that new cancer treatments first shown to be effective in canine cancers can frequently be predicted to have a similar benefit in human cancer patients. As a result, researchers now recognize that new drug trials in dogs with cancer will result in therapeutic discoveries that are highly translatable and likely to produce comparable medical responses in human cancer patients.
By studying how cancer responds in dogs, scientists are gaining a better understanding of how new cancer drugs not only treat the cancer but also influence the patient’s overall quality of life during treatment. This benefits dog owners, by providing access to promising new cancer treatments for their pets with cancer, and benefits human cancer patients by providing a rapid way to collect crucial data needed for FDA approval.
Please be aware that every animal involved in these studies have been diagnosed with cancer by his/her primary care veterinarian and referred to a comparative oncology program. If they are eligible to participate in a clinical trial, it is the animal’s family who decides whether or not to include their pet. Those that are involved receive the benefit of experiencing cutting edge research and therapeutics.