Dogs have been the friends and companions to people for thousands of years now, sharing many joys and hardships along the way. Unfortunately, one hardship both dogs and people share is a considerable risk of developing cancer.
Recently, pediatric oncologists have noticed similarities between cancers like osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in both humans and canines. Working with veterinarians, they have begun devising methods to treat these cancers that offer benefits to both species.
How Can Dogs With Cancer Help Humans?
Biologically, the way osteosarcoma develops in dogs develop is remarkably similar to how it develops and spreads in children and young people. Osteosarcoma tumors develop primarily in the larger bones of both species. A significant challenge and danger of osteosarcoma is its likelihood of spreading to the lungs.
Treatments for osteosarcoma typically revolve around chemotherapy, and pediatric oncologists are finding the specific types of chemotherapy agents used are often very similar to those used by veterinarians to treat the cancer in dogs. This growing field is called comparative oncology, and finds veterinarians increasingly teaming up with cancer doctors to find a cure.
How Does Comparative Oncology Help?
Unlike studying cancer in a laboratory setting using mice, dogs live and play in a real-world environment like their human counterparts. This has led to some surprising findings that benefit both dogs and people.
After surgical procedures to remove osteosarcoma, veterinarians have found dogs are more likely to survive if their surgical wounds subsequently become infected. When an infection occurs after the removal of a tumor, it spurs the body’s immune system into action and disrupts the cancer’s spread. Pediatric oncologists have found this same principle to also help human children who are treated for osteosarcoma.