By Dominique Fortes,
Domestic News Assistant Editor
Last week, Akyra, a very poorly cared for Shih Tzu, began treatment at a University of Pennsylvania veterinary oncology program after having been rejected by rescue groups due to her mammary tumors. Cancer is not usually common in house pets as they are typically spayed. However, as per the New York Times, “among strays, females used as breeders in puppy mills and other unsprayed female dogs, one in four has tumors.”
Research as to the causes and treatment of cancer began to get into full swing around the early 1900s when animals were introduced into oncology labs. Chickens and rabbits were two of the animals that really helped develop this research.
Cancer has been something known to plague our society for an extremely long time. In fact, research shows that it has been documented since 1600 B.C. However, ideas as to treatment of it were not suggested until the mid-1700s when surgeon, John Hunter, suggested curing it via surgery and tumor removal. By the 1800s, oncology, the study of cancer, began to develop further as Rudolf Virchow worked on cellular pathology studies, leading up to what we now refer to as cancer research.
His research laid the foundation for modern knowledge as he studied microscopic pathology and the ability to determine whether or not the more developed surgical procedures of the time had actually eliminated the cancer. Karl Thiersch, a German surgeon, was even able to discern that cancer was spread via affected cells.
These new ideas were a huge leap from the 1600s and early 1700s when cancer was thought to be contagious. Still though, by this point, a complete knowledge of cancer was not existent. In fact, even up until the early 20th century, despite a lack of experimental proof, many professionals believed that trauma caused cancer.
Interestingly enough, there is an extreme likeness of response in dogs and humans to chemotherapy medication and even a similarity in molecular malfunctions. As per the New York Times, “Because dogs typically have 10 mammary glands and often develop tumors in several glands at the same time, they present a unique research opportunity, enabling scientists to study lesions that are at different stages of development…all in the same animal.” This specific characteristic of canine cancer is what really develops research in comparative oncology.
Typically, the procedure involves collecting a couple of each dog’s tumor samples and sending them in for both pathological and molecular analysis. Scientists hope that this process will help them find specific changes in gene expression that occur as the cancer progresses. These results are then compared to the results of research conducted on humans. Hopefully, via this process, even more progress will be made in the field of oncology.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Apr. 7 print edition.
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