Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cures for Canine Cancer--Hope for Humans

Dogs get many of the same cancers we do--for many of the same reasons. They share our lives and are exposed to many of the same stressors that are thought to contribute to cancers in humans.

Since their life span is shorter than ours, the cancers develop more quickly. We know sooner whether the chosen treatment has been effective or not.

Also, it's easier to hunt down the bad guys--the genes that have gone wrong--in dogs than it is in people. That's because dogs have been bred for centuries to have the traits we want: speed, silky coats, floppy ears...and riding along with these traits came diseases that are often linked to a specific breed. Great Danes are prone to diabetes. Border Collies are often obsessive-compulsive (Mine certainly tends that way!)

These breed-specific diseases make it easier to locate a rogue gene in a dog than in a person. And that gives scientists a better idea of where they might find it in the human genome.

Scientists have several marvelous new tools at their disposal. Ever since the canine genome was sequenced in 2008, new treatments for cancer and other diseases are being found at an accelerating pace. The same Spanish team that discovered a cure for canine diabetes had already found a treatment for a canine mouth cancer that is currently being translated into a cure for human melanoma.

The opening of a national canine tumor bank, which happened only 3 months ago, will be a vital resource for researchers in the field of canine oncology.

Jasper, the dog pictured below, is one of the first dogs to participate in the tumor bank. He has a lymphoma similar to non-Hodgkins lymphoma in people. The DNA and other information that he contributes may well lead to better treatments, and hopefully a cure, not only for Jasper, but for other dogs and for humans who share his condition.
Jasper, A Dog Undergoing Cancer Treatment in San Jose