inary hospitals have digital X-ray, ultrasound, and CT capabilities, and most
with CT have MRI capability as well.
Due to its high cost, PET imaging is not
widely available in veterinary hospitals,
nor is it frequently used—it is often
done off-hours in human hospitals, on
In the past, canine radiotherapy
was primarily palliative, aimed at controlling growth of tumors and cancers
to limit pain in the animal. However,
in more recent years the focus of radiotherapy has shifted toward curative
treatments designed to eliminate the
tumors and cancers.
Immunotherapy has its roots in
the late 19th century, when William
Coley, MD, experimented with injecting mixtures of live and inactivated
Streptococcus pyogenes directly into his
patients’ tumors. “Coley’s Toxins” had
some success in achieving complete
remission of a number of cancers, but
between the lack of understanding how
and why the treatment worked and the
risks of deadly infection, surgery and
radiotherapy became the standard cancer treatments during the 20th century.
Immunotherapy today is a big tent,
encompassing vaccines, genetic modification, tumor markers, “precision medicine,” and so on. Many of the protocols
used for canine immunotherapy have
their roots in human medicine, and
Sequencing of the dog genome in
2007 has led to an increased the focus
on studying cancer forms in dogs
because of their close correlation to
their human counterparts, and Next
Generation Sequencing is making it
more economically feasible to detect
specific genetic features or defects that
may correlate with increased risk for
the cancer(s) being studied.
For example, a recent study shows
a correlation between increased risk of
developing malignant mammary tumors in
English Springer Spaniels and a gene that
is also linked to drug resistance in human
breast cancer, suggesting that canine
mammary tumors may also be useful as
comparative models for future genetic and
clinical studies of breast cancer.
MAN’S BEST COMPARATIVE MEDICINE
Veterinary oncology is a branch of animal research that has been hiding in
plain sight for 50 years. By treating people’s dogs in veterinary clinical settings,
the public is involved in the research in
a very personal way. Whether they realize it or not, the treatments that help
their pets may eventually help humans
as well. “Man’s best friend,” indeed—
and much more! .
I would like to acknowledge and
thank Dr. Henrik Rönnberg for his time
and generosity in replying to my questions; Liz Doughman, ALN Magazine
Editor-in-Chief, for connecting me with
Dr. Rönnberg; and Yike Ding, HERA
Laboratory Planners and Washington
University in St. Louis, for her assistance with research for the article.
For more on this topic, includ-
ing the references and a history
of veterinary oncology, go to
Jim Cartwright, AIA, is a principal
with HERA laboratory planners headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Throughout his 35 year career, he has planned
and designed research laboratories,
medical facilities, and special use
facilities for academic and academic
medical, healthcare, and private sector
clients. Jim is a published author and
frequent speaker on laboratory and
owner do not. The veterinarian administers the treatment to the animals,
while the researcher generally prepares
the treatments, randomizes them for
administration to the animals, and analyzes the results.
Double-blind studies use a third party
to do the preparation and randomization,
so that neither the researcher nor the veterinarian and owner know which animals
are receiving treatment and which are
being given placebos.
In trials involving only oral or injection/infusion medications, a single-blind
trial is usually sufficient to ensure fair
results. Double-blind trials are appropriate for trials that compare oral medications to injection/infusion medications.
Researchers administer the medications, so they know which animals
are getting pills and which are getting
injections, but they would not know
which animals were getting placebos.
The animals’ legs are all shaved in
the same spot for infusions and blood
draws so that neither the veterinarians
nor owners know which treatment
which animal is getting.
TREATING DOGS LIKE PEOPLE
Like cancer in humans, cancer in
dogs is treated through a wide range
of modalities, often in combination.
Developments in molecular biology,
immunology, pharmacology, and radiation therapies in the last several years
are more directly focused on their
potential for use and/or adaptation for
human cancer patients.
Chemotherapy is commonly used to
treat lymphomas, with both multi- and
single-drug protocols. While multi-drug
protocols are considered more effective,
single-drug protocols are generally less
expensive, easier to administer, and
Imaging equipment and techniques
for canine nuclear medicine are very
similar to—and in many cases the same
as—equipment and techniques used for
humans. While “veterinary” imaging
equipment is becoming more widely
available, use of equipment designed
for human use is common. Most veter-
By treating people’s
dogs in veterinary clinical
the public is involved in
the research in
a very personal way.