Enhanced Study of Cancer in Dogs Could Lead to Better Treatments for Humans

Numerous canine breeds develop cancers such as breast cancer and melanoma that have genetic similarities with the human equivalent disease.

A review suggests that better cancer treatments can be found for both canines and people by integrating dogs with cancer into new drug therapy studies.

The Science Translational Medicine review hopes to close the gap between research for cancers in human and dogs while continuing to develop comparative oncology.

"We are hopeful this analysis will be useful in developing and advancing an agenda for the field of comparative oncology," said study author Jeffrey Trent, PhD. "Many canine breeds develop naturally occurring cancers, such as breast cancer and melanoma, that share remarkable genetic similarities with their human equivalent. This allows us a unique opportunity to have what we learn in the human be of help to the dog, and what we learn in the dog to be of direct help to human patients with these cancers."

The gap analysis seeks to address a general lack of progress in the development of successful oncology treatments.

"Low cancer drug development success rates and the associated high attrition rates of new drugs, particularly late in human clinical trials, are indicative of a key shortcoming in the preclinical development path," Dr. Khanna said.

"Strong similarities between the biology of cancer in dogs and humans have been shown, including patterns of response to therapies and cancer recurrence," said review’s senior author Chand Khanna, PhD, MD. "Specific types of cancer are functionally identical between dogs and humans, and in some cases the cancers can be considered indistinguishable between the species."

The review found that there is a limited understanding of comparative oncology in the drug development community. Researchers further noted that comparative oncology can help accelerate drug development and FDA approval, while saving time and money, and reducing patient risk with early assessments of clinical trials.

The analysis found that there should be a priority for the study of canines to help answer questions about drug target biology and comparative oncology should give priority to developing and validating biomarkers in circulating blood.

Collaboration could also be vital, as the study noted that veterinarians should be integrated into clinical practice and the pharmaceutical industry. Additionally, researchers said that samples stored in tissue banks and bio-specimen repositories from canine cancers should be leveraged to help accelerate comparative oncology.

The review also found that the knowledge of genetic alteration that drive human cancers exceeds those in canine cancers. There are more than 30,000 human cancers that have been genomically profiled and fewer than 50 for canine cancers.

"Our understanding of the genomic landscape of canine cancer is widely considered to be the single largest gap currently present in comparative oncology today," said lead review author Amy LeBlanc, PhD.