Research on canine cancer could lead to better treatments for humans as well as dogs, a veterinary expert told a symposium in London today.
Dr Ali Mobasheri, an associate professor from the University of Nottingham, gave a talk entitled Curing Canine Cancer.
He said that studying the disease in dogs would help scientists to better understand tumour metabolism in humans.
There are extensive similarities between canine and human forms of prostate, bone, skin and breast cancer.
Studying pedigree dogs enables scientists to determine the genetic causes of cancer because each dog breed has a very small gene pool.
Certain breeds are vulnerable to particular forms of cancer. For example, bone cancer is common in the greyhound and rottweiler.
Thus, scientists are able to focus their research to a far greater degree than is possible in human studies, leading to more reliable results.
They are able to identify "markers" or sequences of DNA which indicate the presence of disease. In 2004, a study of German Shepherds identified the cancer-causing gene on canine chromosome 5.
Dr Mobasheri said the comparative approach would be of "mutual benefit to humans and companion animals" because "cancer is cancer".