Comparative oncology is the study of cancer that naturally occurs in animals, and the comparison to its human counterpart in order to identify treatments and cures that can benefit both humans and animals. Many advances have been made through animal investigations, such as the Canine Melanoma Vaccine, but a key distinction of comparative oncology is that disease is never induced in the animals being treated; the cancer has only occurred spontaneously.
Benefits of comparative oncology for humans and animals:
- Many naturally occurring cancers in domestic animals closely resemble human cancer and therefore provide important insights for cancer research to benefit both animals and humans. The same cannot necessarily be said for cancer induced in rodents.
- The incidence of many types of cancer, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, breast, oral, melanoma, bone and liver cancer, is the same or greater in dogs and cats as in humans providing a significant potential population for research.
- The environment that humans and animals share plays an important role in cancer research. Domestic animals live with people in their homes. Larger animals, like horses, often live nearby. This environmental model provides a common variable when studying naturally occurring cancers and developing treatment options.
- Pet owners can take comfort in knowing that animals tolerate cancer therapy much better than humans do; animals rarely suffer from hair loss, nausea, vomiting or fatigue after receiving the same chemotherapies or radiation treatments as humans.
- Animals’ anatomical size and structural similarity allows for refinement of surgical and other techniques that may also be effective in humans.
- Animals have a shorter life span than humans allowing researchers to potentially determine efficacies of treatments faster.
- Animal cancer models are useful in research because there are many factors that can be controlled, such as diet, hormonal status, lifestyle choices and placebo effects.
- Similar diagnostic tools can be used on animals as on humans.
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