Shown in the image above is Jasper, a 7-year old dog that has lymphoma, cancer of the immune system (white blood cells) that is similar to non-Hodgkin lymphoma that afflicts people. Researchers are hoping that studying the DNA of dogs with cancer may lead to treatments for not only dogs, but also people. The first national canine tumor bank, which is part of the Canine Comparative Oncology and Genomics Consortium (Bethesda, MD), was opened in October providing researchers with access to canine cancer samples. Because dogs live in the same environment as humans, they are a good model in which to study factors that may cause cancer in both dogs and humans. Discovering which genes become mutated in dogs may in fact lead to the discovery of which genes may be causing similar cancers in humans.
Besides the experimental treatment for osteosarcoma that we previously talked about, in 2007 researchers developed a drug to treat canine melanoma by using the dog’s immune system to attack cells that make tyrosinase, an enzyme only melanoma cells create. Their vaccine was successful at inhibiting the growth of tumors in dogs and has led to clinical trials of similar vaccines for melanoma in people.
This may be yet another reason why dogs are considered man’s best friend.