How canines could be the key to curing breast cancer

When Millie Edmonds wanted to adopt last year- she scoured the internet looking for dogs who needed a good home. That's when she found Cali. Cali was rescued from a puppy mill. She spent her first year locked with other dogs in a wire cage.

For Millie, it was love at first sight, even after she got sobering news - Cali had twelve tumors in her mammary glands. You could say the two were destined to be together. Millie is a two-time cancer survivor.
Dr. Karin Sorenmo is an Oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School.
Tumor-ridden dogs have usually not been spayed or neutered. They're older, expensive to treat- and much harder to find homes for.

But like breast cancer in women, Early detection can save a dog's life. Turns out that's not the only similarity. Last year, Dr. Sorenmo created the Shelter Canine Mammary Tumor Program. She and her veterinary students provide free care to shelter dogs with tumors. They collect the canine tissue samples for scientists to compare with human ones.

Unlike humans, dogs have five pairs of mammary glands. Most dogs who have tumors in one gland will develop others. Researchers can study the tumors in all stages of development.
Potentially stopping the spread of the cancer cells.
Millie Edmonds says Cali is part of the family - a family with a history of cancer that she hopes will stop before her granddaughters come of age.

The dogs used in the trial all came from shelters at one point or the other. Only 10-percent of animals received into shelters have been spayed or neutered. And dogs who are not spayed are at least four times more likely to get mammary tumors. A female dog spayed before she comes into her first heat cycle has only a point five percent chance of developing one.

CANCER IN CANINES: Out of all types of cancers affecting dogs, skin cancer is the most prevalent, occurring in 50% of reported cases. These can vary in shape and size, from the pea-sized granuloma to enormous lumps. Benign cysts, such as sebaceous cysts, appear as well. Mammary gland cancer is the second most common type, seen about 20% of the time. The remaining types include cancers of the alimentary system (10%), lymphatic system (10%), reproductive system (5%) and various others (5%). Bone tumors are more commonly seen in larger breeds, usually at the ends of the long bones in growth plates, but are also known to affect other areas such as the skull and the pelvis. These tumors are usually very malignant. Oral tumors also occur, and are also malignant. Unfortunately, these tumors aren’t detected until they are in advanced stages, when bloody saliva and eating difficulties provide the first clues. Canine lymphoma is another commonly seen cancer in canines, occurring in two variations: multicentric (entire body) or specific (developing only in the alimentary, cutaneous and thymic glands). More rare are nasal tumors, which are harmful to the local area but don’t spread rapidly, gut tumors, spleen tumors, and lung tumors. (SOURCE:

CAUSES OF CANINE CANCER: Veterinarians are still unsure of what exactly causes cancer in dogs, but a few risk factors are clearly present. Hormonal activity is linked to some cancers, as it is known to stimulate tumor growth in mammary and perianal tumors. Air pollution is another possible risk factor, as it has been linked to the development of tonsil and lung tumors. Skin cancer in canines is also environmental, believed to be caused by exposure to sunlight. Genetics also play a part, as osteosarcoma in dogs is believed to by the result of a cancer gene. Geopathic stress is another known risk factor. (SOURCE:

CANCER TREATMENT FOR DOGS: In the summer of 2009, the FDA approved the first drug treatment for canine cancer. The drug is called Palladia, and is used to treat canine cutaneous mast cell tumors, which grow on the animal’s skin. Palladia works by first destroying the tumor cells and then preventing blood flow to the tumor cell area. Before this treatment was approved, veterinarians relied on human oncology drugs, which were not intended or tested for use on animals. (SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

For More Information, Contact:
Kelly Stratton
Director of Communication, University of Pennsylvania

(Information provided by Ivanhoe)

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