What Success Looks Like
How curing cancer in dogs at Ohio State helps humans, too
Change and Innovation, Collaborating as One University
July 12, 2011
Man’s best friend is helping us to better understand cancer in humans.
Comparative oncology explores the biology and therapy of naturally occurring cancer in animals. Scientists are now finding that certain types of cancer in dogs are remarkably similar to those in humans, in both how they develop and how they behave in response to treatment.
Both humans and pets benefit from clinical trials in the veterinary setting. The pets and their owners have access to advanced, state-of-the art care at little to no cost, and critical information regarding the disease process and response to therapy is gained that can be used to advance the treatment of human disease, says Cheryl London, a member of the Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics program in the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
“The goal of what we do in dogs with cancer is to evaluate potential new therapies so that we can help to understand how the drugs may work on cancer in humans,” says London, who is an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State.
For example, London led the initial research effort evaluating a new small molecule inhibitor called toceranib in dogs with tumors. The results from this clinical trial supported the subsequent development of a similar drug, sunitinib, in humans with cancer. In 2009, toceranib (marketed as Palladia) became the first drug approved by the FDA specifically to treat cancer in dogs.
Of the 71 million households in the United States, 62 percent own at least one pet, and many companion animals, particularly dogs, develop many of the same diseases seen in humans, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, according to London.
Of the 77.5 million dogs in the United States, more than one million will develop cancer each year. Canine cancer therapies are similar to those used to treat humans, as well, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and now small molecule inhibitor drugs.
Data generated from clinical trials in companion animals can provide important new information to help guide subsequent and/or ongoing human clinical studies. The integration of efforts in veterinary and human medicine will likely enhance translational outcomes for both species, says London.
“A clinical trial in children with bone cancer can take five years to accrue enough patients, and then another five years for outcomes. So, you have 10 years before you know something new, which is why the field moves so slowly,” says London. “In veterinary oncology, we can complete a study in dogs with bone cancer within one year and have outcomes within two to three years.”
Read the press release.