Could studying dogs crack the cure to cancer for humans?

Thursday, October 5, 2017
Could studying dogs crack the cure to cancer for humans?
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Could studying dogs crack the cure to cancer for humans?

NORTH CAROLINA (WTVD) -- Dogs might be a man's best friend but could they be the key to curing cancer, or at least getting new treatments approved faster?

The V Foundation seems to think it's a possibility. So, they've created a new grant initiative nationwide for canine comparative oncology.

Duke Cancer Center and NC State Veterinary School have teamed up on this cutting-edge research, and they hope it will help get more cancer treatment options on the market for both humans and dogs.

"I think it could reduce the time by years," said executive director of the Duke Cancer Center, Dr. Michael Kastan. "Because if we do the clinical trial with the canine patients first, we can do it in a newly diagnosed patient. In human patients, when you test a new drug, you have to wait until they relapse three or four times."

Both universities have been researching human and canine cancer similarities for a few years now, and they're taking part in a national study funded by the V Foundation to know for sure.

"When something goes wrong in a human cell, and it causes cancer to either form or to progress, or perhaps even to spread to other parts of the body," explained professor of genomics at NC State Veterinary School, Dr. Matthew Breen. 'What we're finding is the same kinds of changes are occurring in the comparable dog cancers."

The study could also have the potential to make treatment less costly.

It's a study the V Foundation hopes to invest between $5-10 million in.

Donations for the V Foundation can be made online

"It's relevant for the dogs we love; it's relevant for the humans we love, and we think you can really change the landscape of cancer research in a way that expedites things and helps us know the details even more quickly," said V Foundation CEO, Susan Braun.

"A lot of the tumors that canines get our similar to the tumors that children get," said Kastan. "So, the bone tumors in the soft tissue sarcoma's are the things that are very relevant to pediatric cancer."

While they hope to advance new treatment options through the study, experts said it could be the key to solving the whole cancer puzzle in the first place.

"It's incredibly fascinating to look at cancer cells from a dog, from a human being, from a California sea lion, and observe that the changes that are occurring in those cells, some of them are exactly the same, which suggests to us that those changes have been there potentially for millions of years," said Breen. "Perhaps those are the changes that are the most significant."