You may have read our blog about dogs helping to diagnose cancer in humans , but imagine they could also help to treat and cure it? Wouldn’t that be an amazing leap in our intrinsic connection?

We already share so much, after all. Veterinarian Diane Brown knows this in a personal and professional capacity. She’s the CEO of the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation , a foundation dedicated to advancing the health of all dogs and their owners by funding scientific research and supporting the dissemination of health information to prevent, treat and cure canine disease.

“Dogs share all aspects of our environment,” she told Wired recently[1]. “They drink the same water. They’re on our same carpets, they’re on our same grass. Of all pets, they are the ones who share our lives most fully.”

No surprise, then, that dogs can give us insight into our own processes. Anyone who’s ever seen a dog overjoyed to have their human arrive home knows the feeling of canine-homo sapiens connectedness. It now goes beyond the anecdotal to include the medical. Dogs are lending a helping paw in the fight against cancer in humans with the support of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

The Cancer Moonshot Initiative is a key initiative in the American public health sector. Its goal is to speed up cancer research by making more therapies available to more patients and improving early detection and prevention[2]. Its research uses innovative ways to address human cancer, Wired notes, especially with immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy is a biological therapy that helps your immune system fight cancer. It uses substances from living organisms to treat the disease[3]. It can encourage your immune system to fight the cancer or offer your immune system particular components to help it do its work like manufacture immune system proteins[4].

Moonshot’s focus on integrating research from animal and human medicine is a form of “comparative oncology”, Wired elaborates. “Dogs get some cancers that are very similar to those in humans, and now with a new infusion of funding, researchers are exploring treatments that could save the lives of both dogs and people.”

Yep, it’s not just humans who stand to benefit from this; the research also helps dogs with the disease, and not too shabbily, either. Wired points out that at least 10 cancer drugs have been developed with input from canine studies in the last ten years. In 2019, the FDA (American Food and Drug Administration) approved a drug called Selinexor (Xpovio)[5] for human cancer patients with multiple myeloma which dramatically reduces your ability to fight infections[6]. The canine version of the medicine, Verdinexor, being developed to treat lymphoma in dogs, is being tested as an antiviral therapy in humans as well.

And don’t worry, this is not animal testing in the traditional sense. It’s ethical and humane in its approach. “These projects all involve pets who acquired cancer naturally,” Wired assures readers, “and who receive treatment through the studies, as humans often do.”

As an academic and animal lover, Diane sums the situation up perfectly. “I can never underestimate the value of the animals in my life,” she tells Colorado State University, “learning from them at every step.”[7]

Cancer is a complex disease with no single solution (yet) and when you consider that almost 50% of dogs over 10 years are likely to get it[8] and about 9.6 million humans died of it globally in 2018[9], it’s well worth giving comparative oncology a wag of the tail and a bark of confidence.


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