How Dogs Fight Cancer

Studying how dogs survive cancer and endure treatment may lead researchers to answers about human health.

photo via Orvis Commitment

In yet another astonishing discovery of how dogs can help us, scientists are learning more about cancer and other diseases in humans by studying our canine counterparts. Because selective breeding has created dogs with limited genetic diversity, scientists are better able to figure out which genes might trigger disease. And since dogs live in exactly the same environments we do—breathing the same air and drinking the same water, for instance—researchers don’t have to recreate these things in the course of study:

In one study, Matthew Breen, a researcher at North Carolina State University, tracked 150 dogs with lymphoma. He and his team were able to identify a genetic indicator that predicts how long a dog will respond to chemotherapy, and he believes that that knowledge could help refine treatment for humans with lymphoma.

Says Breen: “Within the canine genome, we’re starting to find the answers we’ve been looking for in our own genome for 50 years.”

These studies are still in their early stages, but it could turn out that our dogs could be the keys to curing some of the worst diseases of mankind. Plus, treatments for these diseases in dogs, especially cancers, should also improve greatly. Just another example of how the lives of humans and dogs are intertwined.

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