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Common Cancer of Humans and Dogs Found Nearly Identical

Posted July 08, 2013 in A Vet's Life

For more from Dr. Ernie Ward, find him on Facebook or at www.drernieward.com.

Most of us appreciate how similar humans and dogs are. We like the same foods, enjoy many of the same activities, and love snuggles under the covers. In addition to sharing the finer things in life, new research reveals one of the most common types of cancer is nearly identical in both humans and dogs. Researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Duke University recently published findings in the journal Cancer Research that show both dogs and humans develop a molecularly comparable cancer called diffuse B-cell lymphoma. This is the most common lymphoma subtype in humans and one of the most common canine cancers diagnosed by veterinarians.

In the study, cancer cells from dogs and humans were compared by molecular analysis. The gene expression of B-cell lymphomas from humans and dogs were found to be very similar. Although further research is needed to verify these discoveries, the scientists were very optimistic that this may usher in a new era in the collaboration between human and veterinary medicine.  

These findings are important because they give new insight into the behavior and evolution of cancer. Certain properties of cancer cells are preserved throughout generations and across species. Ultimately, those unique properties could be turned into vulnerabilities by new cancer treatments. Additionally, understanding that this cancer behaves similarly in dogs and humans advances our understanding of the basic biology of cancer. The better we understand cancer, the better our chances to defeat it.

Dogs and humans get cancer at similar rates without clear causes. Most cancers in dogs and humans occur spontaneously as opposed to genetic causes in mice. This makes studying dogs with cancer a better model for certain human cancers. This finding could lead to more advanced clinical trials for dogs with the ultimate goal to develop better human cancer treatments. As a practicing veterinarian, this means my pet patients may have better access to cutting edge drugs in the future. One day we may be able to enroll pet cancer patients in clinical trials similar to what human cancer patients undergo today. Those findings could then be used to facilitate drugs and treatments for humans diagnosed with the same type of cancer.   

This research makes me very excited for the future

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Ernie has more than 20 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a well-known veterinarian, media personality and author. He is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.

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The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of all veterinarians, Pet Health Network, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.