Discussions about how animals can help humans with cancer often focus on research animals or support animals. Animal trials for new medications are a necessary step before human clinical trials. Animals play an important role in establishing the potential efficacy and safety of different treatment options. There are also some medical facilities that have emotional support animals on hand for those struggling during cancer treatments. Trained dogs may offer comfort to those in physical pain or coping with the psychological challenges that accompany undergoing cancer treatment.
Occasionally, animals that do not fall into either of these two categories affect cancer research or treatment practices. For example, a recent report about a Japanese dog with mesothelioma offers a beacon of hope for those at risk of mesothelioma or worried about a loved one who is at elevated risk.
What did researchers report?
Mesothelioma is relatively rare in dogs, much like it is in humans. It is also very aggressive and deadly for canines much like it is for humans. However, sometimes there are unique cases that give researchers insight into treatment options and diagnostic practices. A dog from Japan has helped solidify the idea that early diagnosis could make a major difference for humans with mesothelioma.
The animal in question was a 9-year-old male dog living in Japan. He had developed localized pleural mesothelioma. This form of mesothelioma begins in the lining of the lungs. Doctors biopsied tissue samples and were able to find two proteins that have a strong association with mesothelioma. The doctors removed the cancerous tissue, and as of 11 months after the procedure, the cancer had not regrown or spread.
In this case, the presence of the two known mesothelioma markers in the canine patient and his positive response to treatment are both promising signs for human patients. Screening people for those markers could lead to the earlier detection of mesothelioma and a better prognosis. Earlier surgical excision of mesothelioma could potentially translate to a more favorable medical outcome for the patient.
As researchers learn more about mesothelioma and how to treat it, the mortality rate for mesothelioma may drop, while the quality of life for patients with mesothelioma could improve. Ultimately, learning more about mesothelioma may benefit those recently diagnosed with this condition and those who have previously worked with asbestos, as reasons to hope become more frequent.