Researchers are reporting that a new study on a deadly cancer in dogs, called hemangiosarcoma, may not only help the canines, but will also have implications in finding the treatment for human form of the disease.
The study, jointly conducted by Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Oregon Health and Science University Cancer Institute, is good news not only for pet owners but the human connection also brings hope.
The study was aimed to see what drugs can be developed to treat this disease. In turn, this research may ultimately benefit people with similar cancers.
Led by OSU veterinary oncologist and researcher Stuart Helfand, D.V.M., the researchers have been studying canine cancer, especially what drives cancer, for about 25 years.
Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Cancer Institute, used the same amount of research time for discovering the targeted therapy drug Gleevec for chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML).
Gleevec has not only revolutionized cancer therapy for most people, it has recently been found to have activity in mast cell cancer, a tumour commonly seen in dogs.
Helfand was one of the first to discover abnormalities in hemangiosarcoma growth pathways similar to those responsible for CML in humans.
Hemangiosarcomas strike all dog breeds, but is more often found in German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers. It is a rapidly growing, highly invasive cancer.
Helfand's clinic sees about five dogs a month with this cancer, and now the Druker Laboratory is studying a cell line developed in Helfand's laboratory from a German Shepherd that died of this sarcoma.
"Over the years we have made the case that animals with cancer can be excellent models for human disease - they live in the same environment, their lifespan is long enough for study and their cancers mimic human cancers. Sometimes the line blurs: cat, dog, people," said Helfand.
"This could be a pilot for treatment in humans. The hope is that we can use this drug screening in the future for personalized cancer therapy," said Jeff Tyner, Ph.D., a research fellow in hematology/ medical oncology, OHSU School of Medicine.