Could Dogs Be the Key to Curing Cancer?

New research links cancer in dogs & humans to find new hope

By Jon Nelson

Dogs & Cancer - Get Leashed Magazine

We all know that dogs have the ability to help people. Guide dogs and emotional support pets are trained to assist individuals and their skills are praised and counted on by thousands of people. Now, dogs and cancer are becoming increasingly intertwined, as medical professionals are further understanding the important role dogs may play in finding a cancer cure.

In her book, Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures, Arlene Weintraub explores the part man’s best friend plays in the treatment and detection of cancer. Weintraub was recently featured on CBC’s The Current, where she explained her extensive research linking specific cancer types in dogs and humans. Because dogs are susceptible to many of the same cancer types that humans get, namely Melanoma, bone cancer and gastric cancer, they’re perfect candidates for clinical drug trials. Whereas tests on rodents and many other animals involve inducing cancerous cells, dogs develop cancers naturally, making the way cancer responds to drugs in dogs comparable to the response in the human body. Called Comparative Oncology, scientists in this field find the bond between humans and dogs a far superior way to develop new cancer therapies and cures.

Dog Sniffing Cancer 2 - Get Leashed Magazine

Photo credit: CBC

A dog diagnosed with cancer is able to participate in clinical trials and doctors find that people who have lost family members or friends to cancer take some solace in knowing that their dog may be able to help other people. Weintraub emphasizes that this practice is not animal experimentation because the dogs get cancer naturally; it’s not forced into them, so the goal of  medical trials is to give dogs a better quality of life. Dogs that don’t improve are taken off of the trial and are cared for by leading oncologists and veterinarians throughout the entire process.

Another field of research currently being explored which bonds dogs and cancer has to do with a dog’s nose and the cancer “scent.” Dr. Cindy Otto, Executive Director of Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania, primarily works with ovarian cancer, as it is one of the hardest cancers to detect, with no good early diagnosis methods. She’s seen great accuracy of cancer detection in human blood samples when dogs are asked to determine cancerous samples from non-cancerous ones. In some cases, reports submitted state that dogs have been 98% accurate in sniffing out ovarian cancer. Scientists are hopeful that technology will be able to harness the power of a dog’s nose in the not-so-distant future.

Dog Sniffing Cancer - Get Leashed Magazine

Photo credit: CBC

As Weintraub puts it in her book, where better to look for hope than with dogs? Everyone has been touched by sorrow due to cancer in his or her lifetime. Better detection to catch cancer early and better medication to improve a patient’s quality of life are important and optimistic steps toward finding a cure for this dreadful disease – and it starts with our favorite animals.

Heal - Get Leashed MagazineBuy Arlene Weintraub’s book, Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures on Amazon now!