Magazine article Newsweek

Sick Puppies: How Dog Tumors Could Help Find A Treatment for Human Cancer; Some Cancers Are Far More Common in Dogs Than They Are in People

Magazine article Newsweek

Sick Puppies: How Dog Tumors Could Help Find A Treatment for Human Cancer; Some Cancers Are Far More Common in Dogs Than They Are in People

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Sheridan

What have humans done to deserve dogs? They greet us when we come home, comfort us when we're sad and generally act as loyal companions.

Now, researchers are investigating whether tumors in dogs may help treat tumors in humans. (Talk about loyalty.) In early April, the Jackson Laboratory, which breeds and sells research mice to universities and drug companies, began collecting samples of canine tumors. Cells from these tumors implanted into mice could help test new drugs and improve our understanding about how cancer develops and progresses. A veterinary surgical center in Connecticut that treats dogs diagnosed with cancer is providing the initial samples. But the plan is to collect many more.

The new research involves a long-used method for studying human tumors: implanting them in mice. Normally, the introduction of cancer would trigger an attack by the mouse's immune system. The mice at the Jackson Laboratory are different: Either they have no immune system or have received a stem cell transplant to make their immune systems more like those of humans. When a small piece of a person's tumor is implanted into these mice, those cells can grow in a way that is more realistic than what's possible in a petri dish. "It is the closest we have to a human tumor," says Dr. Edison Liu, CEO of Jackson, "other than a human."

Dog tumors may be the next runner-up, on account of the genetic underpinnings of the disease. Although cancer results from many factors, genes play an integral role, and sometimes an inherited mutation can increase a person's risk. Other times, a healthy gene may change, leading to the abnormal cell growth--the defining feature of cancer.

The genetic makeup of a tumor can also determine which drugs work against it. Having a broad and diverse array of genetic profiles increases the chances of finding the right way to attack each disease. …

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