Veterinary and Human Oncologists Collaborate On Cures for Cancer
A look at the keys comparative oncology holds to curing cancer in humans and pets
No, I am not talking about certain pet’s ability to detect cancer cells in people, I am referring to comparative oncology, the study of spontaneous cancers and how they behave in various life forms.
As it turns out the tens of millions of pets in the United States, man’s best friends−for the record I am talking about both dogs and cats−develop cancer at about the same rate that people do. Because of this tremendous rate of cancer in the pet population AND because more and more people are choosing to provide advanced veterinary care to their pets with cancer, the study of cancer in dogs and cats has the great potential to help cancer research for all of us.
The types of cancers that our pets develop are the same types that we contract. In many cases, the tumors look identical under a microscope and behave in biologically similar ways. Moreover, as we know more about the genetics of cancer we are finding increasing parallels among human, dog and cat tumors.
Cats and dogs share our lives and lifestyles; they breathe the same air, drink the same water, and in many cases, eat the same food. We, therefore, can study the environmental factors that contribute to cancer in our pets and obtain useful information not only to protect them, but to protect ourselves as well.
One unfortunate fact about dogs and cats that every pet owner is painfully aware of−they do not live as long as we do. Their shortened lifespans, as compared to human beings, allows comparative oncologists to obtain results from clinical trials in a much shorter time frame compared with similar trials in people.
These early results can help refine oncologic research in people, making human trials more effective, more quickly.
For more information about comparative oncology, stay tuned to this column. I will discuss the groundbreaking work that has recently been accomplished in the field, as well as incredibly exciting studies that are currently being done across the country.
For Information & Opportunities to Support Comparative Oncology: