Veterinary oncology is a field that extends animal research outside the vivarium deep into the public realm, with fascinating possibilities for human medicine.
In this field, pet dogs participate in
clinical treatments that certainly have
applications in animal medicine, but
possibly in human hmedicine as well.
PUTTING THE “VETERINARY” IN
Veterinary oncology in the US, EU,
and Japan is one of the most rapidly-expanding disciplines within the field
of companion animal veterinary medicine. In addition to its obvious applications to treating cancer in pets, there
is the potential for wide application
in human medicine. The connection
between canine cancers and human
cancers has long been established.1
Pets as research subjects have several advantages over traditional “lab
animals”—and sometimes human participants, too:
• The tumor models are better.
Spontaneous tumors in dogs are
more complex than tumors induced
in the lab, and more directly representative of the variety and
complexity of human tumors.
• Canines and humans show similar effects of aging on the immune
system. Michael Kent, MD, of the
UC Davis Clinical and Translational
Science Center, noted that “Like
people, dogs are experiencing an
increase of cancer incidence, and
their owners are highly motivated to
seek novel treatments.”
2 Because of
this motivation, patient compliance
is better than in humans.
Taking Animal Research Out of the Lab
Jim Cartwright, AIA
forms of cancer. Because of the close
correlation between a number of
human and canine cancer forms,
there is considerable potential for
successful canine gene therapies to
cross over to human therapies and
A LITTLE COMPLEXITY IS A GOOD THING
One of the primary advantages of
housing and using lab animals in the
vivarium setting is the increased ability
to control environmental factors as well
as the characteristics of the animals
themselves. External factors such as
disease, predators, random stressing
events, temperature and humidity, variability in food and feeding, etc. can be
eliminated or tightly controlled.
• Tumors are as easy to diagnose in
dogs as in humans, and similar (or
even the same) laboratory techniques
and diagnostic tools can be used on
both canine and human cancers.
• Immunotherapy is well-suited to
companion animals as they have
normally-functioning immune systems. Immunosuppressed animals are
required to grow induced tumors, but
as Henrik Rönnberg, CEO of AdvaVet,
Inc., points out, therapies that challenge or modify immune responses
can’t be tested in animals that don’t
have working immune systems.
• Sequencing the dog genome has
allowed molecular biological
approaches to look for DNA changes
that predispose the dogs to certain
Dr. Arta Monjazeb, a human radiation oncologist, and Dr. Michael Kent, veterinary oncologist,
collaborate on clinical trials at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine to improve the lives
of canine and human patients. Photo courtesy UC-Davis.