The treatment of cancer in dogs has the potential to change human health care.
Our furry friends provide us joy and unconditional love. Pet dogs and cats, without a doubt, play a vital role in our lives as companions.
What may surprise people, however, is that our dogs may hold the key to curing human ailments such as cancer. Clinical investigations of naturally occurring disorders in domesticated dogs and cats may help to accelerate the discovery of medicines for human and animal health.
To combat an insidious disease, new approaches are being developed.
Cancer is one of the world's top causes of mortality, claiming the lives of 230 Canadians per day. Traditionally, when a researcher creates a cancer therapy, the medication is initially tested in lab-grown cancer cells to see if it has any effect on the tumor.
The therapy is next tested on mice by artificially creating cancer and analyzing the medication's effectiveness to kill the tumour. If the medication looks to be effective, it is subsequently tested on humans in a preliminary safety and efficacy trial.
We are becoming increasingly aware of the flaws in this approach. A whopping 94% of cancer medicines developed in mice have failed to show clinical effect in humans. As a result of this failure, sick people are not receiving the effective therapies that they require. People continue to be sick and die as a result of our inability to effectively cure them.
Furthermore, bringing a single investigational medicine to human clinical trials can cost millions of dollars. The majority of this money comes from taxpayers in the form of government-funded research. We need a path forward that is both sustainable and effective.
Animals that provide companionship
The Animal Cancer Centre at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph treats over 5,000 companion animals for cancer each year. Companion animals such as dogs and cats, unlike the rodent models we generate in the lab, get cancer spontaneously, much like humans. Furthermore, our companion dogs and cats share our environment and are subjected to the same environmental stresses as we are, which may explain why they have a similar cancer rate.
In contrast to the genetic uniformity shown in mice, genetic testing of tumors from companion animals has revealed genetic variety, similar to that seen in humans. Our beloved dogs and cats are nearly ideal models for testing the efficacy of novel disease treatments.
We have a fantastic team of cancer scientists, veterinary surgical oncologists, and medical oncologists who have extensive expertise performing cancer clinical studies in companion animals. We treat pets with traditional cancer medications as well as innovative, cutting-edge therapies produced by our team in these trials. Anti-cancer viruses, blood-flow-restricting medicines, and immune-system-activating treatments are among them.
We have recently embarked on a bold effort in which we are collaborating with cancer specialists who treat cancer patients. We can take a medicine from cancer cell and mouse testing through companion animal cancer trials, and eventually to humans, thanks to these collaborations. Translational research is the term for this type of study.
We can identify and abandon medicines that are unlikely to have a clinical benefit thanks to translational research. This could drastically reduce the high failure rate of cancer medicines now being evaluated in humans. We can modify, enhance, and improve therapeutic approaches in companion animal trials and preclinical rodent models for medications that show promise.