Could man’s best friend improve treatment options for glioma patients?

2 min read

Cancer research uses experimental models - this could be cancer cells in a dish or the transplantation of tumours to other living organisms - and using these models has been extremely useful for learning more about cancer and how we might treat it. For some cancers, however, these models have failed to provide sufficient insight for medical progress. Diffuse glioma, the most common malignant brain tumour, is a such an example.

While experimental systems may model cancer cells quite well, they don't fully capture their environment within the body. The challenge is how can researchers learn to treat cancers within the context of a patient's body instead of isolated from it? A paper published in Cancer Cell, presents a possible answer: working to cure our pet dogs.

Pet dogs develop gliomas about as often as humans do. They arise in adult dogs, but at the age of human children in calendar years. And, as in humans, they’re very difficult to treat. Caring for pet dogs with glioma can be quite challenging for their owners. Therein lies an opportunity: they may benefit from experimental approaches, which at the same time may provide clues on how to better treat glioma in humans. But it's not known how well they resemble human tumours. To investigate how similar canine tumours are to human tumours the scientific team behind this research obtained posthumous tumour samples from 83 dogs for thorough molecular examination. By comparing the results in detail to those from human glioma patients, both from children and adults, they identified the commonalities driving the disease.

What they found was that there are indeed important similarities between gliomas across dogs, children and adults. A remarkable outcome of the comparison was the observation that canine glioma resembled paediatric glioma much more than glioma in adult patients.

The paper's findings provide important insight into canine gliomas and indicate that the results are likely to be relevant to human gliomas and potential therapies, particularly in children. Striving to cure our dogs, and learning what works best - and why it works - can inform our own therapy regimens, providing an important opportunity to improve prognoses for glioma patients.

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