A Personal Struggle
led the way when our site came online in 1997. And, his
valiant struggle and loss to lymphoma helped us channel our efforts in more
healthful and holistic ways. Yet, even with reduced vaccinations, filtered
water, a chemically-clean environment, organic foods, and more, we did not
escape a fibrosarcoma diagnosis with our
Golden Darcy in 2005. Their images, along with other Goldens who
have lost such
battles, are honored above. Be sure to read veterinarian, Dr. Sophia Yin's
The Canine in the Coal Mine:
Pollutants take their toll on our dogs, a great beginning to understanding
the real dangers in our environment.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is an abnormal process within the body that occurs when a normal cell has
been damaged and survives in a mutated form. It takes at least two to six spots
of damaged DNA (code inside each cell that determines its function) before
cancer can occur. Once that damage takes place, the body's defenses will often
direct the cell to die or will kill the cell via the immune system. If the
damaged cell survives these controls and is able to divide into two cells, and
from two cells to four, and so on, then cancer may occur.
This uncontrolled growth of cancer cells can take a solid
form, and localize to one part of the body as a visible mass (tumor), or in a
bloodborne form, as in leukemia. As cancer continues to quickly grow beyond the
control of the rest of the body, it begins to interfere with normal body
functions. Sometimes a cancer cell creates a signal that disrupts normal
processes distant from the tumor itself, causing changes in blood calcium,
sugar, or hormones. The excess or lack of these substances then causes clinical
Some cancers are
better than others at metastasis. This is when a cell from the cancer tumor
moves into the circulation (via blood or lymph channels) and is carried to
another part of the body. If that tumor cell is able to invade the tissues at
this new site, again dividing into two cells, and from two into four, and so on,
then a metastasis is formed. Treatments are related to a particular cancer’s
usual behavior. For a cancer that is aggressive locally (where it is first
detected), local treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, and photodynamic
therapy may be used. For tumors with a high likelihood of spreading throughout
the body, chemotherapy and possibly immunotherapy (immune
system recognizing cancer cells to then destroy them) would be used. Some
tumors cause problems both locally and systemically, necessitating a combination
of surgery and chemotherapy.
According to The Animal Medical Center's Ann E. Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM
(Oncology and Internal Medicine), the diagnosis of cancer is not
always straightforward, simple, and unequivocal. Dr. Hohenhaus indicates
that . . .
||Companion animals with cancer
frequently have diseases other than cancer complicating the
diagnosis and management of the tumor.
||A complete physical exam and full
diagnostic evaluation is necessary to determine the extent of a
tumor as well as the extent of the complicating diseases.
||Understanding the sensitivity and
specificity of a diagnostic test is critical to accurate
interpretation of lab data.
||The presence of a mass does not
make a diagnosis of cancer. A biopsy or cytology is necessary to
confirm or deny the presence of a neoplastic process.
||If a biopsy result does not make
sense in the context of the clinical presentation of the animal,
review of the tissue by another pathologist, or re-biopsy is
In companion animals with cancer,
the prognosis of the other diseases present impacts the
decision-making process regarding surgery, chemotherapy or radiation
therapy for the tumor.
An Alarming Rate
One in three persons as well as companion animals are developing cancer, an alarming six million dogs annually diagnosed
with a spontaneous, naturally occurring cancer. And, over 45% of dogs older than 10 years of age are
dying of the disease, as cancer is the leading cause of death in this age group.
Cases continue to increase, a recent study indicating that 63% of Goldens will
die of cancer. It is believed that the next breakthrough will be in the form of targeted therapy, such as
molecular targeted therapy or gene therapy.
AVMA's 10 Warning Signs of Canine Cancer
Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
Sores that do not heal
Loss of appetite
Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
Difficulty eating or swallowing
Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
Persistent lameness or stiffness
Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
some tumors are noticeable, others are internal, or cause
such subtle signs of illness that diagnosis is delayed. These warning
signs can be present in other diseases and don't necessarily mean your dog
has cancer, but the presence of any sign should prompt a vet
visit ... even if it is just a tiny skin growth or minor
behavior change. When in doubt, check
During the exam insist that the tumor be diagnosed rather than
settling for a response of "let's watch it and see if it gets any bigger".
If your dog receives a cancer diagnosis,
check out this fine introduction, and all of the materials here at the Land
Diagnostic Cancer Screening Advances vs. Buyer Beware
We recently  sought out advice on the myriad of diagnostics
being advertised these days. Pet parents are frantic when they learn about the
disturbingly high odds that their beloved furry companion may develop cancer. As
we are greatly familiar with diagnostic screening for breast, prostate & colon
cancers, it seems realistic to wonder what we can be doing for our dogs. Be sure
to check out Dr. Modiano's and Dr. Sharkey's advice on this evolving veterinary
dilemma. Just click here.
Disease Trumps Species . . .
Comparative Oncology Importance
Humans and dogs have been
partners for thousands of years, our canine friends quite active in the fight
against cancer. In this KQED Quest film, researchers are training dogs to smell cancer in the breath samples of human patients. And, the film details how
by studying cancers in dogs, we are discovering new treatments for cancer in
human and canine cancer patients.
While researchers have
a greater understanding of cancer biology, their artificially induced cancers in
rodents have not afforded them with much success in human trials.
Dr. David Waters,
Co-director of the Purdue Comparative Oncology Program indicates, dogs and humans are the only
two species that develop lethal prostate cancers. And, the breast cancer that
affects dogs spreads to bones, just as it does in women. Further, osteosarcoma,
which is the most frequent bone cancer of dogs, presents in the same way as it
does for our teenagers. In fact, under a microscope, cancer cells from a
teenager with osteosarcoma are indistinguishable from a any breed dog's bone
According to researcher, Dr. Melissa Paoloni, this sharing of
genetic signature has been the genomic proof of principle that the
Oncology Program researchers have been seeking.
Comparative oncology is the study of those cancers that occur similarly
in people and companion animals in order to identify treatments and cures that
benefits them both. Researchers have discovered a genetic cancer link between dogs and
humans. Jaime Modiano, V.M.D., Ph.D., University of Minnesota College of
Veterinary Medicine and Cancer Center, and Matthew Breen, Ph.D., North Carolina
State University's Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research,
collaborated on this research study. Their findings are published in the journal
Chromosome Research, in a special March 2008 edition on comparative
cytogenetics and genomics research.
Drs. Modiano and Breen have found that humans and dogs share the same genetic
basis for certain types of cancer. Furthermore, the researchers say that because
of the way the genomes have evolved, getting cancer may be inevitable for some
humans and dogs.
"Many forms of human cancer are associated with specific alterations to the
number or structure of chromosomes and the genes they contain," Breen said. "We
have developed reagents to show that the same applies to dog cancers, and that
the specific genome reorganization which occurs in comparable human and canine
cancers shares a common basis." More specifically, Breen and Modiano found that
the genetic changes that occur in dogs diagnosed with certain cancers of the
blood and bone marrow, including chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), Burkitt's
lymphoma (BL), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), are virtually identical
to genetic abnormalities in humans diagnosed with the same cancers.
"Interestingly, we found that the same translocation of chromosomes happens in
dogs as in humans for the three blood and bone marrow cancers we studied,"
Modiano said. Breen and Modiano conclude that despite millions of years of
divergence, the evolving genomes of dogs and humans seem to have retained the
mechanism associated with cancer, and that the conserved changes in the genomes
have similar consequences in dogs and humans. The next step for Breen and Modiano is to use grants received
from the National Cancer Institute to start pinpointing risk factors for cancer
in various breeds of dogs.
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