Comparative Oncology Update

By: Joan Stewart, RT(T), BA HCA Clinical Services Project Coordinator, TCCC

Our loyal newsletter readers may recall an article I wrote for our June 2015 issue on comparative oncology: the study of naturally occurring cancers in companion animals as a model for human disease. Research has shown genetic and behavioral similarities between human and animal tumors. The clinical research targeting these similarities then acts as a window in which we can evaluate novel therapies that may result in human clinical trials and consequently future cancer treatments.

This area of cancer research is so promising, the National Institute of Health created the Comparative Oncology Program within the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research ( In the June 2015 article I shared information regarding osteosarcoma in the long bones of large breed dogs and its similarity to childhood osteosarcoma (bone cancer). The Center for Cancer Research recently opened a clinical trial for canine osteosarcoma which utilizes a drug currently used for human kidney cancer. If the trial results in the desired anti-cancer effects, the research may result in a clinical trial for childhood osteosarcoma.

Both human and veterinary clinical practice use therapies that target specific proteins in the treatment of a number of cancers. Recently some molecular scientists identified two cell surface proteins that are found on the majority of canine gliomas (a type of brain tumor) but are not present in normal canine brain tissue. They have since developed monoclonal antibodies that target those two proteins. Similar patterns of proteins have been observed in human gliomas and normal brain tissue. The identification of a unique molecular signature for gliomas that is shared by both dogs and humans suggests novel treatments that are effective in dogs may translate to human therapeutics. Thus the canine clinical trial that is currently enrolling is expected to generate clinical data that can be used for the development of molecularly targeted cytotoxins as a potential therapy in human gliomas.

If you or someone you know has a cat or dog with a cancer diagnosis, please consider how you can contribute to this body of knowledge and research. A conversation with your vet regarding the participation in canine or feline oncologic clinical trials may result in new cancer treatments for you, your friend or your family. Pets enrich our lives and due to comparative oncology, their ability to enrich the lives of others is far reaching.

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