Cancer in Pets and People: Not as Different as You Might Think
“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” Maya Angelou was no doubt wiser than your average Joe, but this insightful quote has reaches far beyond what she likely ever intended. We cross this realization all the time in the field of cancer research as we are reminded that humans and animals are not really all that different.
Cancers in pets and people have many similarities. The more we experience in our work at Veterinary Oncology Services and Research Center, the more we come to appreciate the parallels.
Treating Cancer in Pets and People
The foundations of cancer treatment in many circumstances are the same no matter the species. Cancers in pets and people are often similar or even the exact same types and respond best to multimodal therapy.
Just as in human medicine, we are able to use surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, molecular therapy, and immunotherapy to fight the disease. Cancer in pets needs to be fought on a case by case basis. There simply is no “one-size-fits-all” cure for cancer. Many of the cancer treatment protocols we use in veterinary medicine have roots in human oncology.
The goal of treatment is a notable difference between cancer treatment in pets versus people. Humans are treated quite aggressively, particularly with chemotherapy. Side effects are tolerated because their short presence may be rewarded with a cure and an extension of life for many years.
It is difficult to justify serious side effects when treating our pet patients. This means that cancer treatment in pets often aims to reach remission and reduce pain rather than eliminate the cancer. This results in less intense treatments and fewer side effects.
Research Knows No Species
Cancer is a major problem in both the animal and human populations. It only makes sense that we would find ways to utilize research being done in both the veterinary oncology and human oncology fields and apply the findings across species.
While it is obvious that a dog isn’t a human being, there are far more similarities between canine cancers and human cancers than there are differences. Comparative oncology is the branch of oncology research that attempts to draw parallels between cancer in different species.
There are many types of cancer that are being studied on a comparative level. Some of the more exciting research being done includes those involving:
- Transitional cell carcinoma (bladder cancer)
- Glioblastoma (brain cancer)
- Mammary cancer
- Osteosarcoma (bone cancer)
Research involving the development and treatment of many cancers often can be extrapolated across species, advancing both fields of medicine in one fell swoop. Dogs often share many cellular similarities with people and applying the research across species is not as far-fetched as it may seem.
Research across the species holds a lot of value in advancing diagnostic acuity, developing new and better treatment options, and better understanding the behavior of cancerous cells. Dog (and cat!) truly may be man’s best friend when it comes to beating cancer. This is part of the reason that the Veterinary Comparative Oncology Research Foundation is so very important to us. After all, we are not so different, you and I.