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Veterinary Oncologist: What to Do When Your Pet Has Cancer


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Dr. Cheryl London, an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State, is among a small group of veterinary oncologists in the United States who are funded to conduct research with dogs in order to advance and accelerate cancer research in humans.

London’s field of research, known as comparative oncology, explores how naturally occurring cancer in animals can help inform human research – translating into more efficient studies, and a focus on investigational therapeutics that are more likely to succeed in human trials. She was the lead investigator on clinical trials using toceranib (Palladia), the first ever cancer drug approved for use in dogs.

“Dogs share many of the same kinds of cancers as humans including skin, bone and breast cancer, and on a molecular level, these cancers are very similar,” says London. “That means as we treat dogs and try out new therapies, we’re also able to apply those findings to advance human research – and vice versa.”

The approach is resulting in remarkable progress, particularly with osteosarcoma. While common in dogs, osteosarcoma occurs infrequently in humans and is particularly devastating for children. Dr. London’s research first using canine osteosarcoma tissue samples and cell lines and then testing new therapies in dogs with osteosarcoma helps to inform researchers about which therapies may be more likely to be effective in human patients. This approach speeds the research process and reduces the chance of subsequent treatment failures in human clinical trials.

Working with the Ohio State Center for Clinical and Translational Science, London and her fellow veterinary oncologist Dr. William Kisseberth helped establish the Companion Animal Core which houses the Clinical Trials Office that manages all clinical trials conducted in dogs with cancer at the Veterinary Medical Center, and the Biospecimen Repository which stores, supplies and analyzes tissue samples collected from dogs with cancer. The research often yields benefits for both humans and dogs. London says, “People are often surprised – and encouraged – to learn that many human cancer therapies are also available for their pet.”

London – also a member of the Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics program at the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center – offers these tips about pets and cancer:
• Cancer is responsible for nearly half of the deaths in pets over the age of 10, and just like in humans, early diagnosis and treatment can often improve the outcome.
• Know if your breed is predisposed to certain types of cancers. Bernese Mountain Dogs, Pugs and Golden Retrievers are breeds that have a higher incidence of certain types of cancer. If you are aware, you can be on the lookout and be informed.
• Changes in appetite, weight, behavior or energy level are signs that an animal is not feeling well. Swelling, discharge or sores that don’t heal should never be ignored.
• Have your pet examined by a vet at least annually, and biannually if older than 7 years
• If your dog is diagnosed with cancer, a Board certified specialist trained in the field of oncology may be able to offer cutting edge therapies and/or clinical trials for your dog.

For more information on London’s work, please contact Melissa Weber at 614-292-3752 or [email protected].

Source: The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) and Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine – Expert Available for Interviews