Dogs naturally get cancer, and they do so in astonishingly large numbers: in the U.S. alone, over 1 million companion dogs are diagnosed with cancer and treated each year. Dogs that naturally develop cancer are not, by definition, an artificially constructed laboratory model of disease. They are old and young, have variation in their genetic background, and may suffer ongoing complications – just like humans and unlike rodents. Thus, they represent an authentic model of human cancer and an under-recognized opportunity for cancer research because of remarkable similarities in biology and outcomes. Recognition of the benefits of research in pets with cancer and funding to learn more remains scarce. Respected investigators across the healthcare spectrum believe that studying cancer in pets will improve the advancement of human therapies, providing insights into our understanding of the #2 killer in the U.S. Advocates for Comparative Oncology and the inclusion of companion animals in the study of cancer diagnosed in multiple species consider our pets an under-utilized resource and potential key to faster new treatments.
What Can Be Done to Help Dogs Help People?
- Work with industry to make more drugs available both for new approvals as well as expanded uses for existing drugs in dogs with cancer.
- Encourage FDA to acknowledge and value the use of data derived from clinical studies in spontaneously arising cancers in pet animals throughout the drug development pathway.
- Open NIH grant opportunities in animal models to encourage the use of natural cancers in dogs, not just mice and rats.
- Promote cross-training/education of MDs, DVMs, and PhDs with different animal models—including companion animals.
- Increase awareness across the stakeholder ecosystem (MDs, DVMs, patients, companies, academics, pet owners, government, advocacy groups, and philanthropies) regarding how dogs with naturally developing cancer are valuable for human cancer control.