Purebred Dogs Offer Insight in Cancer Research

PetMD Editorial
Published: May 15, 2018
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In recent years, multiple studies have found that purebred dogs have more to offer cancer research than just their sniffing noses.

In the recent Popular Science article, “Purebred dogs are helping us cure cancer,” Sara Chodosh explores the ways in which purebred dogs are helping cancer research for both canines and humans. Chodosh explains, “Roughly a quarter of all purebred dogs die of cancer, and 45 percent of those who live past the age of 10 succumb to one variety or another. Modern chemotherapies have allowed some degree of these dogs to get treatment, just like a human would. Those therapies work so well because canine cancers are so close to human tumors.”

As Brian W. Davis and Elaine A. Ostrander explain in their article “Domestic Dogs and Cancer Research: A Breed-Based Genomics Approach” that “… most types of cancer observed in humans are found in dogs, suggesting that canines may be an informative system for the study of cancer genetics.” Purebred dogs offer a unique and very valuable way to study similar hereditary human cancers.

Jane M. Dobson explains in her review article “Breed-Predispositions to Cancer in Pedigree Dogs” that the breeding standards and regulations implemented by kennel clubs and the frequency of inbreeding have led to isolated populations of breeds with minimal gene flow between them. This not only means that certain breeds are uniquely susceptible to very specific types of cancer because of the limited genetic diversity in their heritage, but that they are great subjects for studying the etiology (origin and cause of a disease) and pathogenesis (origin and development of a disease) of specific forms of cancer.

Davis and Ostrander add that the thorough record keeping amongst dog breeders enhances their viability as a cancer research tool because “it facilitates both association analysis and family-based linkages.”

This not only means that the study of purebred dogs can benefit human cancer research, but that researchers may no longer have to rely upon dog colonies created for the specific purpose of research. As Davis and Ostrander explains, “We argue that the days of maintaining dog colonies at veterinary schools, started with limited founders for the purpose of studying a single cancer type, are past. Rather, geneticists, veterinarians and owners can work together to design highly accurate studies using pet dog populations.”

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