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Dog Cancer Study Finding Cure for Human Cancer

Who says dogs are not our best friends? Researchers from the North Carolina State University have found evidence that shows evolutionary breakpoints on canine chromosomes that are associated with dog cancer. The study shows how much our lives depend on the gift of life from our dog, especially those who are dying of cancer themselves.

Cancer in dogs is the leading cause of death for dogs who are over ten years of age. In fact, over fifty percent of older dogs will develop cancer. What makes it so frustrating is that over half of these cases could have been cured if they were diagnosed early enough.

Here is a short list of the more common types of cancer in dogs:

  • Malignant lymphoma, tumor of the lymph nodes
  • Mast cell tumors, a form of skin cancer
  • Mammary gland tumors, or breast cancer
  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • Osteosarcoma, or bone cancer
Image Credit: Istockphoto and Sergey Panteleev
cancer in dogs
Credit: Istockphoto and Sergey Panteleev

It is hoped…and planned…that this new cancer study in dogs will have huge implications for the advanced study, discovery, and treatment of both dog and human cancers.

The breakpoint regions that are so important in this new scientific study of dogs are “sites on the genome where chromosomes broke during speciation (when new species of dogs developed).” (ScienceDaily)

The professor of genomics at NC State, Dr. Matthew Breen, and his graduate assistance, Shannon Becker, examined the breakpoint and compared it to wild canine species by overlaying both genomes.

What they found were shared breakpoints amidst 11 different species when they differentiated during evolution. These new findings were recently publishing in Chromosome Research.

“As species evolve, genetic information encoded on chromosomes can be restructured — resulting in closely related species having differently organized genomes,” says Becker. “In some cases, species acquire extra chromosomes, called B chromosomes. We looked at these extra B chromosomes in three canid species and found that they harbor several cancer-associated genes. Our work adds to the growing evidence that there is an association between cancer-associated genomic instability and genomic rearrangement during speciation.”

Dr. Breen goes on to say that the presence of cancer-associated gene clusters of canid B chromosomes suggests that they are not as inert as previously thought. Instead, they may play a part in sequestering excess gene copies that had been generated during speciation, the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise. Further testing will be needed to determine whether or not the genes are active or inert, in order to offer scientists new tools for cancer detection and treatment for dogs and humans alike.

With cancer a common canine ailment, there are certain dog breeds that are susceptible to dog cancer over others. Dogs have a chance of having a 30% malignant rate in diagnosed cancers.  The problem is with the inbred population and the popular designer-hybrid dogs, as the vet does not know what is being medically inherited—other than the cute little smushed-up nose and buggy little eyes that tear your heart out! 🙂

female dogs with mammary cancerResearch shows us that size over breed makes a certain dog more of a risk factor for cancer. Also, gender plays a role in what type of cancer will develop. The female dog tends more to have the mammary gland tumors, while intact males will develop testicular tumor (neutering a male dog will eliminate the cancer risk).

Large purebred dogs that have a higher tendency to carry cancer are the Bernese Mountain, Boxers, Flat-coated Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, and Irish Setters.

Houston Pet Talk discusses a Swedish dog study done with over 222,000 dogs, searching for the mortality rate in dogs with cancer with interesting results:

In a 1997 Swedish study involving 222,000 dogs, the proportional mortality rate for cancer was 18.6 percent of the recorded deaths in 1993. These high-risk breeds (more than 10 percent dying of cancer) are: Boxer (36.9 percent), Giant Schnauzer (36.9 percent), Bernese Mountain Dog (32.7 percent), Irish Wolfhound (24.8 percent), Cocker Spaniel (22.2 percent), Doberman Pinscher (22.2 percent), Pomeranian (19.0 percent), Newfoundland (16.8 percent), German Shepherd Dog (14.8 percent), Saint Bernard (13.1 percent), Great Dane (12.3 percent), Greyhound (12.3 percent) and Basset Hound (percentage unknown, but the breed does have a genetic predisposition to lymphomas). (Houston Pet Talk)

NOTE: We came into contact with the Paws Hospice Organization when we were doing the Dog Carnival a couple of years ago. They are an excellent organization that assists cancerous dogs in their final days, along with the dog’s owners who are emotionally struggling with the upcoming loss of a dear friend. If you need any assistance, please contact them or Taxi Dog.

“For Paws Hospice is a not for profit referral service for pet owners in Pinellas County, FL.  Like human hospice we assist families coping with their companion animal’s life issues including shelter, nutrition, advocacy, illness and treatment, long term care and final arrangements for life closure.  We work with a carefully selected group of animal service providers to ensure that every pet family has a full choice of care for their pet during and after life.”


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    December 5, 2011 at 6:04 pm — Reply

    In 2007, I lost my 9 year old Rodeisan Ridgeback, To bone cancer. Her name was Tameytame. This summer. I learned my other Dog Ladybug, Who is a Boarder Collie 12 years old and she has cancer. It was located on her right leg . They cut as much out, But had to leave the rest. Because it was to close to her tendent.. We are in hopes of another solution. Do you have any????

    • December 5, 2011 at 6:35 pm — Reply

      I would contact this company doing the research and see if they have any suggestions for you. On a personal level, I would begin a cancer supplement called C- Care for pets with cancer from Natural Wonder Pets. You can either call or email Gary and talk to him about your dog’s condition at 1- 800-614-1401 or

      Gary Le Mon is a Board Certified Master Herbalist specializing in natural home remedies for dogs and cats. He is certified by the American Naturopathic Medical Certification Board, a member of the American Herbalists Guild and the American Botanical Council. Founder and chief formulator of Natural Wonder Products, Gary has devoted his life to caring for animals and the formulation, testing and distribution of Earth-friendly, 100% natural veterinary products.

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