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Cancer Research with Dogs

Updated on July 24, 2011

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Research With Dogs

A dog with only a couple months to live is usually put down. Now more than ever, instead of putting a dog down because of terminal cancer, we can use the dog to help find a cure or at least an effective treatment for cancer. Scientists have started testing drugs in dogs that are terminally ill with cancer.

Just as you would maybe consider a new drug if you found out you had terminally ill cancer, you can now enroll your dog into a clinical trial. So how can dogs help us find cancer drugs and why should scientists not just stick to using mice?

Comparative Oncology

Many people want to keep their dog around as long as they can and they want their dog to be happy. On estimate, 15% of the 30 million or so dogs become diagnosed with some sort of spontaneous cancer. A spontaneous cancer is a cancer that occurs naturally.

Veterinarian oncologists look at cancer in the animal population and try to asses the different factors that have lead to the cancer. Their hope is to develop novel drugs that will help humans and dogs alike, but they also look at genetic factors and environmental factors that predisposed the cancer.

Dogs as Test Subjects

In a research laboratory, mice will be bred to develop a certain kind of tumor, whereas dogs develop tumors naturally like humans do. Terminally ill dogs are good candidates for clinical trials because they usually will be put down anyway.

A clinical trial gives the pet owner the opportunity to prolong the life of their pet and improve their quality of life. Treatments developed from experimenting with mice have lead to many successful drugs, however not very many of the treatments that are effective in mice work in humans. Dogs are more compatible with humans genetically.

It is possible that an effective treatment for cancer in a dog might work in a human too.

Benefit to Both Dogs and Humans

Doing a clinical trial on a dog might lead to a treatment that is effective for a human and a dog. It is always great to have an effective treatment to treat our canine friends.

Dogs really are a mans' best friend and they might even help humankind find a cure for cancer.

More Information

If you want to read more about comparative oncology, visit the National Cancer Institute website at

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