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  1. ITV Report

Animal charity's cancer research in dogs helps fight human disease

The Animal Health Trust has a dedicated programme looking at cancer in dogs. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Work being done in East Anglia to find treatments for cancer in dogs is helping scientists better understand the disease in humans.

The Animal Health Trust, based near Newmarket, carries out world-leading research to improve the lives of our pets and other animals.

It is the only UK charity with a dedicated programme looking at cancer in dogs. Their work is now helping to treat cancer in teenagers.

  • Click below for Tanya Mercer's report from the Animal Health Trust

Teams are examining DNA to find out which dogs get inherited cancers. Scientists analyse the genetic changes to help improve the diagnosis and treatment of those dog that develop it.

Dr Mike Starkey, Head of Cancer Research at the Animal Health Trust, said: “If we can identify those specific changes in DNA that’s caused the cancer, we can design drugs that actually reverse or address those changes.

“What we trying to do is to try and increase the effectiveness of the treatment, while minimising side effects.”

Work to find treatments for pets is also benefitting humans with cancer. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Megan and Andy know just how important the science is. Their cocker spaniel, Ash, has intestinal cancer. Sadly it's terminal, but they know research into different cancers will help earlier diagnosis and increase the chances of successful treatment for pets in the future.

Megan Brown said: “He will create and absolutely huge hole when he’s gone, he’s a very important part of our family."

The Animal Health Trust, based near Newmarket, carries out world-leading research to improve the lives of our pets and other animals. Credit: ITV News Anglia

There are around 200 different types of cancer and the work going on at the Animal Health Trust is helping understand the disease not just in pets, but in humans too.

An example is work being carried out on bone cancer - a devastating form that can affect teenagers.

Dr Starkey said: “It’s a very aggressive cancer and the prognosis is very poor, so one of the main therapies was developed by actually research on bone cancer in dogs.

“So without that work on bone cancer in dogs, the drug that’s been used very successfully to treat bone cancer in teenagers, would not have been developed.”

And it's not just the research into cancer that's helping widen scientific understanding of diseases in humans.

They're also looking at a particular type of heart disease in cats. But 1 in every 500 people also have the condition and it's caused by the same genetic mutation.

Now a breakthrough in the stem cell research here is working on treatments of the condition and could have significant benefits to humans.