How Dogs Are Helping Scientists Learn More About Breast Cancer

Scientists at the University of Zurich have been given a helping hand by man (and woman's) best friend in the fight against breast cancer.

The similarities of cancer in dogs and humans has been known for a long time and as such, dogs are often given very similar treatment methods to humans for cancer affecting mammary glands. But until now how the tumour cells affect and influence the surrounding tissue between dogs and humans has been unknown.

How Dogs Are Helping Scientists Learn More About Breast Cancer

Making the link between dogs and human breast cancer

Accessing the canine tissue archive at the Institute of Veterinary Pathology located at the Animal Hospital, the study's researchers analysed the surrounding tissue of dogs mammary tumours using molecular biology and immunohistological methods.

Animal pathologist Alexandra Malbon was involved in the process and says, "With the permission of our patient's owners, we conduct pathological tests to better understand diseases. In the process, we archive samples of various organs and tissues as these samples can be of great value to answer future research questions."

How Dogs Are Helping Scientists Learn More About Breast CancerPhoto Credit: Michelle Aimée Oesch, Vetsuisse-Fakultät, UZH

From the dogs' samples, researchers were able to prove that some cells in the vicinity of tumours act the same way as the cells would, in similar circumstances, behave in humans.

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How Dogs Are Helping Scientists Learn More About Breast Cancer

Enni Markkanen of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Zurich involved in the study says, "Simply speaking, the tumor enslaves its environment: It forces the surrounding cells to work for its benefit. This mechanism works the same in both humans and dogs.

Markkanen continues, "For research on breast carcinoma, tumor tissue of dogs is therefore, among other reasons, much better suitable than tissue from rats or cells cultivated in the laboratory. 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."

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