Dogs May Be a Key Component in Treating Cancer

Man’s best friend is contributing to effective drug trials and important cancer research

Playful jack russell terrier dog with sticking tongue.
Turns out, cancer tissues in dogs and humans look pretty similar
Getty Images

If dogs weren’t already the best animals on the planet, there’s been increasing evidence that your furry best friend could be a huge key to fighting certain cancers. In an article published by WIRED, several different trials and studies are showing the positive impact that dogs are having on cancer research for treatment options and other helpful data. 

According to the article, cancers that arise in dogs are molecularly and microscopically similar to cancers in humans, and when the cancer tissues from tumors in people and dogs are put under a microscope, they’re indistinguishable from one another. Because of their similarity, this means dogs could be a helpful source when it comes to drug trials and research. 

For example, cancers such as osteosarcoma are incredibly rare in people, but it’s 10 times more common in dogs, so more research can be done, per the article. Forty children with recurrent osteosarcoma are a part of a drug trial and are taking losartan, a common blood pressure drug, along with another common cancer drug. The decision to prescribe the pair of drugs came after a study involving dogs taking both for their osteosarcoma — the dogs’ cancer tumors had shrunk by 50% after three years of taking the two drugs. They’re also testing an experimental vaccine on dogs with osteosarcoma that’s showing promise, as the dogs’ immune systems are responding positively, and the human trials for the vaccine will start later this year. 

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Dogs are also better suited for drug trials compared to laboratory mice, per the article. Dogs have naturally better living conditions, as opposed to mice living in cages, and dogs wouldn’t need to have malignant cells injected because tumors occur naturally in dogs. Generally, the dogs have been contributing to important cancer research overall, such as the similarities between genetic mutations in humans and dogs and precision medicine, which is when patients receive personalized treatment plans to fight cancer mutations specific to their genes. 

The results are showing a lot of promise — the findings attest that the genetic mutations in dogs and humans are similar enough that dogs will be helpful when trying to develop human drugs, as the dogs and humans would receive similar treatments with, optimally, similar results. 

So, not only do dogs make perfect pets, but they’re also contributing to monumental research that could help fight cancer. Aren’t dogs the best?

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