AAPS PharmSci 360

Man’s best friend: Using shared diseases in humans and dogs to support drug development

By Melissa Fassbender contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Capuski)
(Image: Getty/Capuski)

Related tags: AAPS PharmSci 360, Animal research, Clinical trials

More than six million pet dogs are diagnosed with cancer every year – posing researchers with the opportunity to co-develop drugs for humans and animals.

More than 92% of drugs that have passed preclinical testing fail in development programs, said Jonathan Mochel, Iowa State University, at AAPS PharmSci 360 earlier this month.

Because of this, there is a critical need to bridge the knowledge gap between murine models and human patients, he explained – and one of the options is to use the wealth of quantified data from dog models of disease.

“Data from animals sharing similar disease to humans can be used to streamline the way we are developing drugs today,”​ said Mochel.

Multiple diseases in dogs are analogous to humans, including several cancers, Crohn’s, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. Though the FDA just last week proposed a study to reduce the number of dogs used in clinical trials​.

Another benefit of the dog model is that pets live in the same environment as humans, exposing to them to the same carcinogens, Mochel explained. 

“We all know that environmental factors are critical to human disease etiology, severity, and progression,”​ said Jessica Bolker, PhD, University of New Hampshire.

“We need this as part of the picture if we are really going to represent and effectively model human diseases for drug effect,”​ she said at the conference in Washington DC.

Additionally, because the lifespan of a dog is shorter, cancer progresses more quickly, which enables researchers to establish proof of efficacy sooner.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2003 launched a comparative oncology program.​ Through treating pet animals – primarily cats and dogs – with naturally occurring cancer, the program aims to help researchers better understand the biology of cancer, and ultimately, the assessment of novel treatments for humans.

Benefiting this, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeing an emerging market for drugs in dogs “because people are treating them as their furry children,”​ added Marilyn Martinez, PhD, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – and more than six million pet dogs are diagnosed with cancer every year, according to the Animal Cancer Foundation​.

“As you’re developing these drugs for humans and developing them for dogs there is a co-learning that’s going on,”​ Martinez added.

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