The Canine-Human Connection: An Untapped Resource in the Fight Against Cancer title
woman petting her dog

By Gerald Post, DVM, MEM, Diplomate ACVIM (Oncology)


anine cancer is one of the largest unmet needs in veterinary medicine and each year millions of dogs are diagnosed with cancer in veterinary clinics across the United States. As any veterinarian who has worked with pet dogs with cancer knows all too well, canine cancer is remarkably similar to its human counterpart. Pet dogs are diagnosed with certain types of cancer at similar rates to humans, the first-line treatments (typically surgery and chemotherapy) are the same and, unfortunately, so is the likely prognosis.

But the similarity between canine and human cancers goes deeper than diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. These diseases are also deeply similar at the genetic level, which helps explain the remarkable similarities between canine and human cancer patients observed by veterinarians in the clinic. But rather than a reason to despair, this deep genetic similarity should give us a profound sense of hope because it means that canine cancer patients can benefit from new classes of highly effective personalized cancer drugs and help drive innovation in cancer treatments that benefit human patients, too.

In working with thousands of veterinarians, cancer researchers and dog owners over the past decade, lives of pet dogs with cancer have been saved by using cutting-edge tools from precision human medi- cine, such as AI and genomics, by matching each individual dog with personalized cancer drugs based on the genetic mutations found in their tumor. Published peer-reviewed research has shown that this approach to veterinary medicine can improve survival rates by up to three times compared to some conventional treatment techniques.

Additionally, this approach has identified several existing cancer drugs that can have life-saving effects when used to treat other types of cancers, too. This information is incredibly important for helping drug developers fast-track the most promising new personalized treatments to human clinical trials because of the deep overlap between human and canine cancers at the genetic level.

Why has this valuable translational model been largely overlooked in the quest to accelerate the development of better anti-cancer drugs for both canine and human patients? On the veterinary side, the primary barrier comes down to lack of robust data tracking canine cancer patients from diagnosis to outcome, which is required to understand the true utility of a given treatment. Pharmaceutical companies require massive datasets to evaluate the effectiveness of emerging cancer therapies tailored to specific genetic profiles. But until recently, this data didn’t exist in large enough quantities to move the needle on accelerating cancer drug development. Data from the human side wasn’t much help—privacy laws restrict access to human patient data, resulting in incomplete journeys that lack essential treatment and outcome details.

Canine cancer data, however, remains unrestricted. This creates an unprecedented opportunity for veterinarians to participate in the creation of massive canine cancer databases that not only track the full treatment journey of pet dogs with cancer, but use the genetic profile of those pets to match them with precision cancer drugs.

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Veterinary clinics also sometimes avoid restrictions that limit their patients’ abilities to access cancer drugs that are still in clinical trials. As medical professionals, veterinarians can exercise their judgment to offer emerging small molecule drugs as treatments for their pet patients as alternative therapies when standard interventions like chemo or therapy come up short.

The potential impacts of this new approach on veterinary and human medicine alike are staggering. New cancer drugs can reach the clinic in record time and patient outcomes for both species should dramatically improve through expanded therapeutic choices that provide truly personalized interventions.

Our loyal companions already share the turbulent cancer journey with us. Now, veterinarians have the opportunity to unlock their vast potential to drive progress against this devastating disease on both sides of the leash while simultaneously providing more effective personalized care to their patients. By fully embracing the canine model and prioritizing data consolidation, veterinarians can catalyze a new era of accelerated cancer drug development that will profoundly benefit dogs and humans alike.

Gerald Post headshot
Dr. Gerald Post is the Chief Medical Officer of FidoCure, the leader in precision medicine for canine cancer care. With over 30 years of veterinary oncology practice experience, he is a renowned expert in the field. In addition to his role at FidoCure, Dr. Post is the founder of both the Animal Cancer Foundation and the Veterinary Cancer Center. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Yale University. Throughout his career, Dr. Post has participated in 20 clinical trials and published close to 40 peer-reviewed papers.