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New tricks in canine cancer research may improve treatments for humans, too
The growing interest in dogs reflects researchers frustration with the standard approach to developing cancer treatments: testing them in lab animals, especially mice. Mice dont normally get cancer it must be induced and the immune systems in many strains of lab mice have been altered. That makes them especially poor models for immunotherapy, a rapidly growing field of medicine that directs patients own immune systems to fight their cancer. Dogs, on the other hand, get cancer naturally, just as people do, and have intact immune systems.
Some animals can regrow body parts with ease. Biologists hope to figure out their secrets and apply them to humans.
Researchers have long looked at these divergent trajectories and wondered whether it might be possible to make mice and by extension humans behave more like the salamander. This requires identifying the molecular and cellular processes activated during the regenerative process that allow animals as varied as zebrafish, lizards and certain species of rodent to regrow everything from limbs to organs. The hope is to one day insert or reactivate the same pathways in humans.