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Cancers in Dogs

Historical interest in dogs

Dogs have held tremendously valuable roles for their human companions for millennia.  For generations it has also been apparent that medical situations that affect dogs can have great similarity to human conditions.  In fact, genes for hundreds of diseases that afflict canines are directly orthologous to the same genes in humans. 

Dogs and cancer studies

Dog breeding has also generated distinct populations of animals that have desirable characteristics, and in some cases, unfortunate propensity for development of diseases.  There are many spontaneous cancers that arise in dogs, and these provide insights into the development and treatments of human cancers as well.  Sarcomas and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are common in dogs.  Mammary carcinoma is also observed. The tumor biology can be very parallel to that of human carcinomas.  Additionally, similarities between the human and dog immune systems enable paths of exploration for cancer immunotherapies that might not be as easily accomplished in rodents.

The benefits of investigating cancer in dogs are many-fold. Their size, lifespan, and environmental exposures are often much more reflective of humans than is the case for the average laboratory mouse.  Sample collection and surgical interventions may be easier than in small animals.  Treatments developed for dogs may also offer benefits for humans.  The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has created an innovative project to pursue these studies.  The Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (COTC) is providing resources and funding for this important work.  You can explore the foundations of this project in more detail to understand the value and expectations of this strategy.

Further support in the way of knowledge and tools from the ongoing canine genome sequencing project also provide avenues for greater cross-species understanding, bringing benefits for both human and veterinary oncology.