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Canine Cancer Treatment Breakthrough Offers Hope for Humans as Well

I have long maintained that pets are good for people. Scientific studies back this up. They help to lower our blood pressure, decrease our rates...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Apr 24th 2009


I have long maintained that pets are good for people. Scientific studies back this up. They help to lower our blood pressure, decrease our rates of diabetes, and help us to get more exercise. They inspire sick people to become well, and they help to prevent and treat depression.

Human medical advances historically have been the basis of veterinary medical advances. New human treatments are often adapted to animals.

But a report in Science Daily shows that sometimes it can be the other way around.

The story describes a new treatment for a serious form of canine cancer: anal sac adenocarcinoma. Anal sac adeoncarcinomas are aggressive tumors with limited treatment options. Or rather, the options used to be limited.

A new treatment has been developed. It relies on the fact that tumor cells have extra receptors for vitamin B12. In the treatment a relatively benign molecule, nitric oxide, is attached to vitamin B12. The nitric oxide is toxic to cancer cells. It has little impact on the rest of the body.

Since humans don’t have anal sac glands (and therefore we don’t suffer from anal sac adenocarcinomas), it may seem that this treatment wouldn’t be of much interest to the field of human medicine. However, our tumors often have extra vitamin B12 receptors. This means that, with some gentle manipulation, the therapy may some day be useful to us as well.

It’s a win-win situation, to be sure.

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