Scientists use dogs to help in breast cancer research

Canine mammary tumors are very similar to breast carcinoma in humans, even more than rats or mice that are commonly used in medical research.
By Amy Wallace  |  June 6, 2017 at 10:52 AM
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June 6 (UPI) -- A study by the University of Zurich shows how similar mammary tumors are in humans and dogs and how this can help aid cancer research.

Cancer is one of the most common diseases in humans and pets alike with tumors of the mammary glands being very similar in humans and dogs, more so than in rats and mice.

Many breast cancer tumors have the ability to reprogram healthy cells in the surrounding tumor environment in a way that starts to support the growth of cancerous cells.

Zurich researchers set out to discover if the surrounding cells of a breast cancer tumor react the same way in humans as in dogs.

"Whether these tumor cells also influence the surrounding tissue in dogs the same way they do in humans was unknown until now," Enni Markkanen, of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the Vetsuisse Faculty of the university, said in a press release.

By using archived samples of mammary tumors from dogs at the Institute of Veterinary Pathology, researchers were able to show that some cells in the vicinity of tumors behave the same way as corresponding cells in humans where in the healthy tissue surrounding a tumor, substances are produced that promote tumor growth.

"Simply speaking, the tumor enslaves its environment: It forces the surrounding cells to work for its benefit," Markkanen said. "Importantly, however, we don't view our dog patients as test subjects for cancer research. But they can help us to better understand breast carcinoma in both dogs and humans and fight it more effectively."

The mechanism works the same in humans and dogs. For research on breast carcinoma, tumor tissue of dogs is much more suitable than tissue from rats or cells cultivated in the laboratory.

The study was published May 20 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

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