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Dogs Help in Hunt for New Cancer Drugs
Date:3/23/2009

Research with canines may one day lead to new therapies to benefit humans

MONDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Joe Bauer got the call on a Friday afternoon.

A 10-year-old bichon frise named Oscar had developed anal sac adenocarcinoma, a particularly virulent cancer in dogs, and had been given only three months, at best, to live. The dog's owners, from Milford, Mass., were heartbroken and planned to have Oscar put down the next day.

Instead, Bauer, who at the time was a staff scientist at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Hematology & Oncology Molecular Therapeutics, shipped an experimental cancer drug free-of-charge to Oscar's veterinarian -- essentially enrolling Oscar in a clinical trial that could end up benefitting not only suffering dogs but humans as well.

Treating dogs as a prelude to finding new cancer drugs for humans is an idea that's catching on.

"Dogs are benefiting more and more as [people] recognize the value of studying new cancer therapies -- not just drugs -- in dogs," said Dr. Ann E. Hohenhaus, a staff veterinarian and board-certified dog/cat oncologist at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. "There are a couple of reasons why the dog is so good."

For one thing, the mice usually studied in cancer research are genetically bred to develop tumors. Dogs, like humans, spontaneously develop tumors.

"The tumors we ultimately want to treat in people spontaneously happen because people have darn bad luck," Hohenhaus said. "The same thing is true for dogs. That aspect of tumors in dogs is fabulous in terms of mimicking what happens in humans."

Also, not only are dogs similar to humans in their genetic makeup (certainly more similar than mice), they are also exposed to the same environmental factors that humans are.

Experimental chemotherapy drugs might garner response rates of 80 percent or higher in mice, but that figure often plunges to 10
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