Canine Cancer Studies Yield Human Insights


Since the identification of the dog genome in 2005, researchers have been identifying genetic changes associated with dog cancers and comparing them to changes "in corresponding human cancers" to figure out where there is overlap, said Dr. Matthew Breen, an associate professor of genomics at NC State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, N.C., one of the consortium schools. By being able to "tease out the major genes associated with cancers in other species and then assess the role of these genes," scientists have found changes in canine lymphoma that can predict how well that dog will respond to standard chemotherapy, a finding that could potentially benefit as many as 300,000 dogs diagnosed each year.

By seeing if the same changes in human lymphoma can predict treatment success, "this translation from dog to human" might improve doctors' ability to predict the responses of "up to 70,000 Americans" diagnosed with lymphoma each year, he said.

Assuring these programs can thrive depends upon making pet owners aware of clinical trials. Texas A&M's Fossum, who helped establish the Texas Veterinary Cancer Registry, told ABC News she hopes to make the registry a national resource linking more pet owners with clinical trials.

In the meantime, word is slowly getting around that clinical trials can be a win-win for pets and people.

Jack Sevey Jr. created the website in January 2011 after his 5-year-old boxer Bull died from T-cell lymphoma. Sevey wanted to create an online community for fellow owners of cancer-stricken pets and also steer them to helpful resources. Those include lists of clinical trials compiled by several organizations: the AKC Canine Health Foundation, Animal Clinical Investigation, the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research, the Morris Animal Foundation and the Veterinary Cancer Society.

Canine clinical trials have the potential to accelerate progress in the fight against cancer, helping "patients with and without fur," Paoloni told Tuesday. "All of our interests are geared to learning something from the dog that's applied to human patients."

ABC News' Serena Marshall contributed to this report.

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