AUG 20, 2019 5:10 PM PDT

Treating dogs with human breast cancer drugs

Did you know that dogs get lung cancer? New research published recently in the journal Clinical Cancer Research shows how dogs with cancer are benefiting from neratinib – a drug that has been used to treat human breast cancer. That’s because researchers have discovered that the same gene that causes a certain kind of breast cancer – HER2 – also is behind canine lung cancer.

The research comes from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of the City of Hope, and The Ohio State University and could have noteworthy implications for humans as well as our furry best friends.

According to the report, almost 40,000 dogs develop the most common type of canine lung cancer, called canine pulmonary adenocarcinoma (CPAC) in the U.S. every year. It is an aggressive cancer that is clinically similar to human lung cancer among never-smokers; there is currently no treatment for the disease.

"These results are the first example of our efforts to adapt genomics tools from the human world, such as gene sequencing and liquid biopsies, to generate novel insights in canine cancers, with mutual benefit for both," said one of the authors, Dr. Muhammed Murtaza, Assistant Professor and Co-Director of TGen's Center for Noninvasive Diagnostics.

The authors are quick to say that no dogs were harmed in their research; they looked only at dogs who already had the cancer naturally occurring in their bodies. The recurring mutation they found in CPAC can be inhibited by neratinib.

"With colleagues at Ohio State, we found a novel HER2 mutation in nearly half of dogs with CPAC. We now have a candidate therapeutic opportunity for a large proportion of dogs with lung cancer," said senior author, Dr. Will Hendricks, who is an Assistant Professor in TGen's Integrated Cancer Genomics Division as well as Director of Institutional Research Initiatives.

Can a human breast cancer drug save our furry friends? Photo: Pixabay

Dr. Wendy Lorch, an Associate Professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, is charged with the task of conducting the study's clinical trial. She commented: "This is the first precision medicine clinical trial for dogs with lung cancer. That is, the selection of cancer therapy for a particular patient is based on the genomic profile of the patient's tumor and matched with agents that are known to specially target the identified mutation.”

The study also has significant implications in the field of translational cancer research, meaning it could help for dogs as well as humans with lung cancer who never smoked.

Sources: Science Daily, Clinical Cancer Research 

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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