Ending canine research will kill both dogs and humans

Dogs have long been recognized as “man’s best friend.” But a new cancer study confirms that canines offer humans a lot more than companionship.

Scientists just identified new genes that may predispose humans to lymphoma, a common blood-borne cancer. They arrived at this discovery by studying naturally-occurring lymphoma tumors in dogs. The research could yield new treatments for humans with lymphoma.

This study is not uncommon. In recent years, research involving dogs has yielded significant scientific advances — especially in the fight against cancer.

Yet animal-rights groups have redoubled their efforts to end such research. These opponents have long been willing to sacrifice human lives for their ideology. But by campaigning against canine research, they’re also putting the dogs’ lives in danger.

Scientists discover cures by studying diseases in living systems — first in animals and then in people. They can’t test a drug’s effectiveness through just a computer model.

Consider cancer, which is as big a threat to dogs as it is to humans. One in four dogs develops cancer at some point in its life. Importantly for researchers, they develop cancer in the same way as humans — spontaneously.

That’s different from mice and rats, the go-to models for cancer research. Rodents are genetically engineered to have various forms of the disease. And while they are valuable for cancer drug trials, they don’t mimic how cancer acts within a person’s body as closely as a dog.

So people living with cancer benefit from canine cancer research. But dogs benefit just as much.

For example, University of Minnesota researchers removed a form of brain cancer known as glioma from a dog named Batman using several experimental treatments. Glioma is often impossible to surgically remove in dogs. Among humans, this form of cancer accounts for 80 percent of malignant brain tumors.

In this case, researchers used gene therapy and vaccines to help Batman’s own immune system rid his body of cancer after his operation.

Or consider the story of Sasha, a bulldog diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2012. Nearly 8,000 dogs are diagnosed with this form of bone cancer annually. Most don’t survive for more than a year following their diagnosis. Sasha and four other dogs gained access to a new vaccine through a clinical trial. The treatment enabled Sasha and the others to live healthily for another two years.

Opportunities for dogs to receive advanced cancer therapies are growing more common. The National Cancer Institute’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium, for instance, is currently managing dog trials at 20 institutions nationwide.

Thanks to these studies, dogs are benefiting from some of the most sophisticated cancer treatments available to any species.

Yet recently, campaigners have been publicly attacking — and even suing — research institutions that conduct canine studies. They hope to end all research with dogs.

If they succeed, many cancer patients — across multiple species — will die. Who knows how long it will take to cure cancer if scientists can’t use some of the most effective research techniques?

Attacks on canine testing also demonstrate the willingness of activists to ignore the welfare of dogs in the name of blind ideology. For them, it’s more important to end animal research than to protect the health of actual animals.

Canine cancer studies are offering new hope to the owners of dogs with cancer — and paving the way toward new treatments for humans. That activists oppose these efforts in the name of “animal rights” reveals their hypocrisy.

Frankie L. Trull
President
Foundation for Biomedical Research
Washington, D.C.

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