New book spotlights growing role of dogs in cancer research

Ever since I took over as contributing editor and primary writer of FierceAnimalHealth in 2014, I have featured several stories about a burgeoning field of research known as "comparative oncology," in which veterinarians and oncologists work together to investigate potential new cures for tumor types that are similar in people and dogs (and sometimes even cats). My continuing interest in comparative oncology stems from a book I have been working on for the past 5 years, Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures (ECW Press). I am excited to announce that the book is available now, and I hope it will be of interest to many of the readers of this newsletter.

I first learned about comparative oncology while working as a science writer at BusinessWeek magazine. One day, two veterinarians from Texas A&M University showed up at my office to talk about a new research center on campus, part of which was devoted to comparative oncology. I was stunned to learn that dogs get many of the same cancers people get, including breast cancer, lymphoma and osteosarcoma, and that veterinarians were contributing to research that could help both pets and people with those diseases.

That meeting was the touching-off point for a journey that took me to more than a half-dozen veterinary schools, where I met many of the veterinarians, scientists, doctors, dogs and their owners who were participating in comparative oncology research. Basil the golden retriever, for example, developed a rare cancer at the age of 2 and was entered into a trial for one of the earliest tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Basil's cancer disappeared and he lived to age 10. Dutch, a boxer mix being treated for lymphoma, participated in a trial of specially engineered T cells called CAR-Ts, a new class of cancer treatment that's now generating a tremendous amount of excitement in human oncology. They represent just a small sampling of the uplifting dog stories I uncovered.

Will dogs be the key to curing cancer? Maybe not. But after covering oncology for many years and suffering my own personal loss--my 47-year-old sister lost her battle against cancer in 2010--I have become convinced that we need all the allies we can get in this war on the disease.

In Heal, I feature several biotech and pharma companies that have embraced comparative oncology, many of which have been featured in this newsletter. And I provide lists of the universities and animal-health foundations that support this research and are in constant need of funding. Please spread the word, and keep an eye out here at FierceAnimalHealth for the latest news about comparative oncology.

-- Arlene Weintraub (email | Twitter)