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Health & Science

Ohio State Studying Dogs To Help Cure Cancer In Humans

Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine's new Integrated Oncology Suite.
Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine's new Integrated Oncology Suite.

Ohio State University’s Veterinary Medical Center opens a new cancer ward on Wednesday.

The new Blue Buffalo Foundation Integrated Oncology Suite will include a collaboration with Nationwide Children’s hospital to study osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that presents in both dogs and humans.

"What this study really aims to do is to look at some of these circulating tumor cells that may spread from the tumor, and understand a little bit about why and how they're actually able to get to the lungs," says Joelle Fenger, assistant professor of oncology and a lead on the study.

Fenger says that, while dogs and humans are obviously different, there's surprisingly lots of overlap to study because companion animals share our environments.

"With this disease, we see it present very similarly with the bones it affects, we see that it behaves very similarly," she says. "We actually treat dogs very similarly to that in people, so it's actually a good model for us to study."

Another advantage is numbers. About 10,000 dogs are impacted by osteosarcoma each year, compared to just about 1,000 cases in children.

"In order to kind of gain meaningful information and do such in a reasonable time frame," Fenger says. "What we can do is study a disease in dogs and understand how these cancers behave and ultimately get some meaningful data out of that to help inform the therapy for children."

After the study wraps up, she hopes the data will lead to a clinical trial.

"Our hope would be the next clinical trial that would come out would use a new therapeutic approach in order to target these circulating cells and stop them before they actually get into the lungs."

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