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Researchers make a breakthrough in treating cancer for dogs

Researchers make a breakthrough in treating cancer for dogs

Many dogs will develop cancer: one in four will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime. Until now, the chances of cure remain low compared to humans, and veterinary medicine knows little about treating animal tumors.

“Cancers in dogs and humans are very similar,” says Yale physician Mark Mamula in a news release. “Dogs, like humans, automatically get cancer,” he explains. Cancer cells “grow, spread, and mutate” just as they do in humans.

That's why it wasn't that difficult to eventually build a bridge between human and canine cancer research. Mamola actually deals with autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, and his knowledge eventually led him and his team to develop a new type of vaccine: this one aimed at fighting cancer in dogs.

“In many ways, tumors are similar to autoimmune diseases,” Mamula said. “Cancer cells are your own tissue and are attacked by the immune system. The difference is that we want the immune system to attack the tumor.

Many types of cancer, which occur in both humans and dogs, are linked to overproduction of two proteins. The goal is to reduce the production of proteins with the help of antibodies. Problem: Many people develop immunity to these antibodies.

Mamula and his team found a way to reduce this defensive reaction. In 2016, they began a clinical trial on the new vaccine. Since then, more than 300 dogs have been vaccinated in addition to their usual treatment.

The results of the study are very positive: the antibodies bind to the tumors and thus prevent their growth. As a result, the dogs' chance of surviving the first year increased from 35 to 60 percent.

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This isn't just great news for dog owners: humans can eventually benefit from this treatment, too. However, it is still uncertain whether a similar vaccine will be used in humans as well. The research team is currently focusing on another point: they want to know whether vaccination can also prevent the development of cancer in dogs.