Medical researchers say dogs could be a link to curing cancer - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Medical researchers say dogs could be a link to curing cancer

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Medical researchers are posing an intriguing question, could man's best friend hold a key to curing cancer?

It's a growing trend in the field of medicine where doctors are looking to dogs in finding new treatments for cancer, as they have more in common with humans than one would think.

11-year old Emily Brown was told she had only three months to live, as she suffered from bone cancer that spread from her ribs and spine to her lungs.

"It was tough going to bed at night cause you never know, 'Am I gonna wake up in the morning," Brown said.

Her last hope was an experimental drug, but the issue was the drug wasn't created for humans, it was a cancer drug for dogs. 

"I didn't even think dogs got cancer."

Doctors are now studying dogs as a model for treatment in humans since cancer is very common among dogs, the medicinal field is called "comparative oncology."

Colorado State Doctor Steve Withrow says, "When they get these cancers, they're identical to people at every level." This includes breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma. 

Surprisingly, people and dogs are genetically identical 95 percent, especially in comparing immune systems. 

Dr. John and Dr. Rodney Page said, "There's something like 400 to 500 diseases that are genetically based that are common and that we share almost all of our DNA with them."

20 major medical centers are now conducting clinical drug trials that could cure cancer in dogs, and experts say if those studies are successful the drugs will then be tested in humans. 

Medical experts say at least four drugs have made it to human trials. 

Scientists are currently studying over 3,000 golden retrievers, which is the breed with the highest rate of cancer. The dogs are followed throughout their entire life from birth to death. 

According to Dr. Page, "We'll be able to have 3,000 stories about where each dog went, what they ate, where they slept, how they interacted with their owners."

Scientists say this study can teach them so much about cancer development in a short amount of time, since a dog's lifespan is much shorter than most humans. 

Thanks to the experimental drug, Brown's tumors disappeared, and 20 years later she is living life cancer free.

"It's crazy ... a dog saved my life."

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