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Comparative Oncology - Exploring New Frontiers in Cancer Research with Man’s Best Friend


Until now, most of us have probably only thought of our dogs as companion animals who are always happy and excited to see us when we walk in the door after a long day of work. But according to a recent article in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, mutually beneficial research in the area of comparative oncology may lead to new cancer treatments for both humans and their furry friends.

Comparative oncology involves studying cancers that occur naturally in pets and applying it to research in humans. Dogs are more genetically similar to humans than the more commonly used research mice, where only about 1 in every 10 cancer-fighting compound shows similar results in humans as it does in mice. Dr. Timothy M. Fan from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has studied the anticancer drug procaspase-activating compound-1 (PAC-1) in dogs with naturally occurring lymphomas and osteosarcomas. PAC-1 is a small molecule that causes apoptosis in cancer cells. Dr. Fan collaborated with PAC-1 developer Dr. Paul J. Hergenrother to test the effects of PAC-1 in combination with other cancer treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy and monoclonal antibodies. They found that PAC-1 is more effective when used in combination with another cancer therapy and PAC-1 phase I trials in humans will be underway shortly.

While the processes and regulations in place for conducting human clinical trials have been well established for many years, best practices for performing clinical trials in animals are still in development. According to Dr. Rodney Page, director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University, research should focus on studying cancer genetics in companion animals and the immune system in dogs.

What are your thoughts on conducting clinical trials in companion animals? Do you agree that trials conducted in animal patients should have the same rigorous scientific and ethical practices as those conducted in humans? What roadblocks do you foresee in conducting successful trials?

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Enzo Life Sciences has a broad portfolio of cancer research products, including small molecules and antibodies.

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