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Dogs help dig for cancer answers

New research is using dog tumors to learn more about human tumors.

By Christine L. Chen Nov 14, 2012 6:13PM

I’m still heartbroken over the loss of my dog to cancer in August. A golden retriever, she held her Frisbee until her last breath. I lost my first golden to cancer, too.

Pets are companions, family members and best friends, and now they may share more than just a spiritual connection to us. Apparently, there is little difference between tumors found in dogs and humans about 80 percent of the time, and that scientific, physical connection might give us clues about human cancer.

New research at Princeton University  is underway to figure out the common links between animals and humans who have cancer. Luke Robinson, who founded a nonprofit called Two Million Dogs when he lost his Great Pyrenees at age six to bone cancer, has made the study possible. 

Inspired, he launched fundraising Puppy-Up Walks across the country to raise money for cancer research. The group recently granted Princeton $50,000 for both biologists and veterinary oncologists to collaborate in a search for genetic markers, which might unlock information about which tumors are more likely to be malignant.

As part of the study, shelter dogs with tumors get free treatment, so researchers can examine glands and masses at different stages of development. The first phase is learning how breast cancer tumors go from benign to malignant. Dogs have multiple mammary glands and can develop multiple tumors – up to seven masses. The researchers all have a personal stake in their work; one lost her German shepherd to cancer a few years ago. 

Our canine friends can give us more answers than mice, because their physiology is more similar to the way human hormones link to breast cancer.

"Dogs get all the same cancers that humans get," said Chand Khanna, the director of the Comparative Oncology Program at the Center for Cancer Research, which is part of the U.S. National Cancer Institute. "With dogs, we can ask many questions that one cannot ask in mouse preclinical models of cancer and cannot answer in human clinical trials ."

Whatever answers are retrieved from this research, it gets us one step closer to successful treatment of both humans and dogs hit with cancer. I know there are many of you out there who would agree with me: There would be nothing better than if we could sit, stay and play with our pets as long as humanly – and “caninely” – possible.

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Tags: Cancer
Nov 14, 2012 7:47PM
"dogs get the same cancers humans get" cuz their food is full of chemicals too!  Be careful what you feed your pets, and if you get the right food, or prepare it yourself, your dog will do well.
Nov 14, 2012 7:52PM
My toy poodle has a huge tumor on her leg/chest. She is in surgery as we speak. I'm wondering if I should get a biopsy ? (My vet doesn't usually do them) I am praying that she will be okay.
Nov 14, 2012 8:17PM

Folks, what you feed them is relevant, but the most important thing is what is on the ground. You put fertilizer on your lawn, you use chemical cleaners on your floors. There are alternative to this practice.


Because most dogs lick their feet, they are putting these chemicals in their body. this is a major problem.


We have eliminated most of this using polishing cloths and no-chemical cleaners which are virtually free of chemicals. I use Lime on my lawn with help with urine problem on grass burn-out. This works well for me and our dogs.


We started this after my Visla got cancer and the University of Wisconsin-Madison has done a terrific job of support, testing and progressive treatment when needed. Their cancer studies is continuous and in conjunction with U.S. cancer research center provides with important data for treatments. I suggest to reach out to local universities that have staffing for this important research.


My dog is doing well!

Nov 14, 2012 7:54PM
Janet:  You are exactly right.  Spend a little bit more and get a good food with no dyes and additives.  
Nov 14, 2012 8:19PM

I don't know if anyone's noticed, but it's not particular dogs that are susceptible to cancer. I'm sure some breeds do get it more often, but most of the time when I hear about a dog dying, no matter what kind, it died from cancer.


I lost my cocker spaniel to cancer and my brother just lost his poodle to cancer. I wish they would make it easier to get treatments for dogs and also be more willing to treat them in the first place. My cocker spaniel was a family member and even though it's been about 13 years since he died, I still cry sometimes because I miss him so much.


Hopefully, this study will be the right path that will lead us to treating cancer in dogs as well as humans.


As for the additives, you might be right, but I don't think they've done enough studies on them to know for sure. Especially since the FDA seems to approve everything. -.-

Nov 14, 2012 8:14PM

I just lost another dog to cancer. We started feeding them almost exclusivly human food a few years ago after losing my lab to cancer. This is the third dog we've lost to cancer. Statistics are scary. I now buy nothing for them made in china.  As bad as cancer is in people, it is epidemic in dogs. We feel responsible and wonder what we could done better. Some say the annual vaccines are partially to blame. I think the chemicals in food are part topblame. He was a shelter rescue and spent 3 or his first four years in a shelter so lord knows what he ate.  Do not feed your dogs cheap dog food. read the studies. it is so full of chemical and dog cancer has reached epidemic proportions.

Nov 14, 2012 7:56PM
Goldens are wonderful dogs, however, they are especially susceptible to cancer. 
Nov 14, 2012 8:14PM

I agree with Janet.  I also lost a boxer to cancerous tumors.  Fifty percent of dogs that die are cancer related.  That is unacceptable.  I am sure it is the food we have been feeding them. The better dog food is more expensive but I for one will spend the extra cost. It is so worth it.  I miss my Jocamo. 

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