University of Saskatchewan researchers finding connections between cancer in dogs and humans

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USask researchers finding connections between cancer in dogs and humans
WATCH: Man's best friend might be known for love and companionship, but dogs can help us in more ways – Aug 19, 2020

A University of Saskatchewan (USask) team is researching cancer in a way unique from any institute in western Canada. They hope findings can help with cancer treatment in both humans and dogs.

Western College of Veterinary Medicine assistant professor Behzad Toosi has a PhD in endocrinology, the study of hormones. He is combining his veterinary and endocrinology background to research comparative oncology.

Comparative oncology compares cancer in people and animals, such as dogs.

Dogs and people develop cancer at similar rates, and cancer found in both species are also alike.

“Dogs and humans are around 90 per cent similar in terms of their genetics and the creatines they produce,” Toosi explained.

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“It seems that man’s best friend is again helping us with the fight against cancer.”

The USask team is expanding on previous comparative oncology research, recently identifying a group of proteins known as Eph receptors in dogs. These proteins have been researched in humans, but the USask team is the first to study it in dogs.

“These proteins are very important in the regulation of various activities of dog cancer cells, including their invasive behavior and their resistance to therapy and treatment,” Toosi said.

They are also utilizing research done on the human side.

It takes 10 to 14 years for new agents used in human clinical cancer treatments to be approved. The team is testing some of these, including agents developed for human breast cancer.

“We are using this agent in our lab on cell culture models of dog cancers and its initial results are showing very promising data,” Tossi said about testing the agent in breast cancer in dogs.

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As more similarities are found, treatment and therapies could be improved for both species.

“If there’s a lot of similarities we can translate that from the dog cells into the human cells. Then later on they can translate into the actual humans themselves and the actual dogs themselves,” USask comparative oncology student Evelyn Haris said.

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