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Sniffing Out Cancer In Dogs & People

WAKE FOREST, N.C (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- This year, about one and a half million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. But here’s something you may not know, six million dogs will be diagnosed with cancer this year. We call them man’s best friends, but now that may have a whole new meaning. Scientists have discovered that when it comes to human cancers, dogs may hold the key to a cure.

Conan is Hannah Elmore’s best pal, a one-year-old standard poodle with so much personality, sometimes he almost seems human.

"He’s my dog child, my only, my one and only," Elmore told Ivanhoe.

Our four legged friends may be more like us than we think. Matthew Breen, Ph.D., a geneticist at North Carolina State University, says purebred dogs can help unlock some of the mysteries of cancer in people.

“Our dogs get the same kinds of cancers that we get. They’re caused by the same kinds of genetic problems, "explained Dr. Breen.

Josie is a six-year-old basset hound, a beloved pet, and a patient of veterinary oncologist Dr. Steven Suter. She’s responding well to treatment for lymphoma.

In the genomes of purebred dogs like Josie, it’s easier to isolate the abnormal genes associated with cancer.

“(In) human populations there is an awful lot of genetic variability, but if we look at genetic variation in purebred dog populations, it’s actually very narrow so by definition it’s easy to see which is the odd spot out,” Dr. Breen stated.

By studying thousands of canine DNA samples donated by dog owners and veterinarians, they’re finding answers that could advance cancer treatment.

"We’re actually starting to be able to use the changes we see in dogs to accelerate the process of finding the most significant genes involved in human cancers,” Dr. Breen concluded.

Dogs helping people fight cancer? It didn’t really surprise Hannah. She knows making life better is what best friends are all about.

This research won’t just help researchers understand cancer in humans. It’s likely to help development of more targeted therapies for dog cancers as well. For more information on this study, or, if you’re a dog owner and want to find out how you can help, check out Dr. Breen’s website at

The Biophysical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science and View Video or contact:

Matthew Breen, PhD
Professor of Genomics
Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
North Carolina State University

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