Based on molecular similarities in human and canine diffuse gliomas, researchers have posited that working to cure brain cancer in dogs may lead to improved treatments and even a cure for humans.

Diffuse gliomas are the most common malignant brain tumor and have near-universal rates of recurrence and poor patient prognoses, according to the study authors. Dogs develop gliomas at approximately the same rate as humans and are just as difficult to treat.

Glioma traits have evolved and converged across species, indicating that they are adapting to similar selective pressures in the environments of both human and canine brains. The researchers noted that the average age of the canine cohort was approximately 9 years, similar to the pediatric gliomas sampled. This observation could be important for future studies of the functional role of such variation and how it can be targeted, according to the authors.

Although the similar diagnosis rates offer an opportunity for experimental treatment approaches, the authors noted that it has yet to be determined how well canine tumors resemble human tumors.
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To investigate this question, the researchers obtained posthumous tumor samples from 83 dogs for molecular examination and for comparison with human glioma patients. They found several important similarities, including mutations in particular genes and pathways, as well as changes in the number of chromosomes. Notably, the team established that canine glioma more closely resembled pediatric glioma than adult patients with the disease.

The researchers also compared how well canine gliomas model human immune response and the immune microenvironment. They noted that the immunological features of dogs with spontaneously arising gliomas were similar to those in human patients. Because immunotherapies in human patients have shown encouraging results, but also low patient response rates, using immunotherapies for canine gliomas may be an opportunity to assess efficacy for both canine and human patients, according to the authors.

Although the researchers acknowledged that veterinarians’ offices are markedly different from human medical research, their insights into canine gliomas could indicate that research is relevant to both canine and human patients, and particularly children.

Amin S, Anderson K, Boudreau C, Heimberger A, et al. Comparative Molecular Life History of Spontaneous Canine and Huma Gliomas. Cancer Cell; February 10, 2020. Accessed February 11, 2020.