Medical Brief: Pediatric Cancer Connections in both Dogs and Humans

Dogs, Cancer and Children: What's the Connection?

From Fenger, JM, London, CA, and Kisseberth, WC. 2014 Canine Osteosarcoma: A Naturally Occurring Disease to Inform Pediatric Oncology. ILAR Journal Volume 55, Number 1, doi: 10.1093/ilar/ilu009

Osteosarcoma (OSA) is the most common primary malignancy of bone in both dogs and children. `

This disease in both species share common features:

  • Presence of microscopic tumor spread at diagnosis
  • Similar responses to traditional therapies such as surgery and chemotherapy
  • Similar biochemical pathways are dysregulated in both species

OSA is much more common in the dog than in children.

  • ~14/100,000 dogs vs. 1/100,000 children
  • Peak onset of OSA in children is adolescence while the peak age of onset in dogs is in middle-aged to older dogs. However, there is a bimodal age distribution in both species.
  • Most OSA occurs in the appendicular skeleton in both dogs (75% of cases) and people. (90% of cases)
  • The places that OSA spreads to is similar in both species: Lung> bone>soft tissue.
  • Mutations in the p53 tumor suppressor gene is common in both species.
  • Abnormal RB1 gene or protein alterations are common in both species.

Both species have genetic risk factors that have been identified.

In people: heritable mutations of the RB1 and p53 gene

In dogs: these genetic risk factors are often breed dependent:

  • Rottweilers-loss of WT1, mutations of MET
  • Scottish Deerhounds-abnormalities in CFA34
  • Greyhound-possible genetic abnormalities of CDKN2A/B

OSA in both species show similarities in gene expression patterns.

From Schiffman JD, Breen M. 2015 Comparative oncology: what dogs and other species can teach us about humans with cancer. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 370: 20140231.

Gliomas are the most common and lethal primary brain tumors in both dogs and children.

  • 80% of malignant brain tumors are in children are less than 18 years old.
  • Gliomas are the second most common brain tumor behind meningiomas and occur with the highest frequency in brachycephalic dog breeds.
  • The rapid progression of these tumors if left untreated is similar in both species.
  • Gliomas in dogs and children have similar genomic architecture.

The topic of pediatric cancer and canine cancer has incredible potential for additional discovery (as pointed out by Dr. Shaying Zhao of the University of Georgia in a recent webinar). There's so much more we can learn by gathering more data and discovering new connections. Our hope is that the research we do at FidoCure® can contribute to expanding options for treatment of pediatric and canine cancers.

Dr. Gerry Post

Dr. Gerry Post has been practicing veterinary medicine for over 25 years specializing in veterinary oncology. He currently serves as Chief Veterinary Officer at the One Health Company.

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