Purebred dogs are helping us cure cancer

The idea of a dog helping to find a cure for cancer probably conjures images of golden retrievers sniffing blood samples and sitting dutifully in front of the cancerous specimen. But though their noses are valuable, there’s something much more useful hidden inside purebred pups: their own tumors.

Roughly a quarter of all purebred dogs die of cancer, and 45 percent of those who live past the age of 10 succumb to one variety or another. Modern chemotherapies have allowed some of these dogs to get treatment, just like a human would. Those therapies work so well because canine cancers are so close to human tumors.

“For the most part, dogs get everything we do,” says Elaine Ostrander, a distinguished investigator at the National Institutes of Health and chief of its Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics Branch. “You see some striking similarities that you don’t see in mice or other animal models, and that makes them an increasingly terrific system to study the genetic basis of disease.”

SEE MORE: Cancer warning signs in dogs 

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11 warning signs of cancer in dogs
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11 warning signs of cancer in dogs

Collapsing

If your dog collapses, get to the vet immediately. Collapsing, weakness, and general lethargy (not greeting people at the door like usual or less interaction) are common signs of cancer, says Jake Zaidel, DVM, of Malta Animal Hospital in upstate New York. “I see this particularly in large breed dogs—even if they fall down and seem better the next day, bring them in because it could signal a tumor of the spleen,” says Dr. Zaidel. And don't miss these 10 silent signs that mean your pooch is actually sick!

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Coughing

Coughing doesn’t automatically signal cancer; for example, small breed dogs tend to develop coughs because they have windpipe problems. “If the dog coughs once or twice, it’s of no concern, but if it continues to cough for more than a few days, that’s a concern and could signal lung cancer,” says Zaidel.

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Weight loss

Weight loss is the number-one dog cancer symptom Dr. Zaidel says he sees. It’s often the sign of a gastrointestinal tumor. “I’ve had a lot of dogs stop eating because of gastrointestinal tumors, so they lose weight very rapidly,” he says. Cancer can also cause dogs to lose weight while maintaining their regular appetite. If you notice your dog shedding pounds, either rapidly or slowly, make an appointment with your vet. Make sure you know the surprisingly common dog dangers that lurk in your backyard!

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Mouth changes

Sores, lumps, a strange odor, bleeding, or a change in gum color can be a sign of oral cancer, particularly in older dogs. This cancer sign in dogs often goes unnoticed for too long. “We commonly find visible oral tumors because people don’t examine their pet’s mouth,” says Dr. Zaidel. “Many oral tumors can be really devastating because people don’t find them until it’s really advanced.” He also suggests brushing on a regular basis.

It’s a good idea to watch when your pet yawns or eats, advises Timothy Rocha, DVM, an oncology specialist in New York City. See a vet if you notice something out of the ordinary.

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Nose bleeds

Nosebleeds are never normal, says Dr. Rocha. “With an older dog, a nosebleed is particularly worrisome. It can be a sign of cancer in the nose,” he says. “With younger dogs, I would worry more about something like a foreign object stuck up there before cancer.” (These are the 12 common foods that could be detrimental to your dog's health!)

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Diarrhea or changes in bathroom habits

Occasional diarrhea usually isn’t a sign of cancer in dogs, says Dr. Rocha, but if it persists or gets worse, get your dog to the vet. Constantly begging to go out to go to the bathroom, difficulty peeing/moving bowels, vomiting, or blood in the urine or stool are also potential dog cancer symptoms, according to PetMD.com.

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Discharge

Persistent discharge from the nose or eyes is cause for concern, says Dr. Zaidel. Nasal discharge is a common sign of facial tumors, and eye discharge can signal an eye tumor. (Check out these 23 facts about animals that are actually all wrong!)

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Seizures

Seizures can be a sign of brain tumors and are typically seen in older dog cancer patients, says Dr. Zaidel. If you start to notice sudden and uncontrolled bursts of activity, like champing and chewing, jerking of the legs, or foaming at the mouth, your dog could be experiencing seizures and you should see a vet immediately, according to WebMD.com.

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Skin changes

“Every lump, bump, or skin change should be checked,” says Dr. Zaidel. “It could be benign or cancerous, but it’s always easier to treat the earlier it’s caught.” Feel for bumps, lumps, or swelling as you pet your pooch. If you notice something iffy, don’t delay—there’s no way to distinguish between a lump that’s benign or malignant without taking a sample. Also pay attention to any sores that won’t heal or lesions that seem itchy or painful. Also, don't forget to keep an eye out for these dog flu symptoms.

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Weight gain

Sudden weight gain or bloating can be a sign of cancer in dogs. If your dog is eating less but seems to be bulking up, take a trip to the vet, says Rocha. A sudden spike in appetite also warrants a visit.

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General pain or discomfort

“Pain is a rather substantial sign of cancer,” says Zaidel. If your dog whines or cries out when you pat her tummy or pick him up, call your vet. Mouth tumors may cause noticeable discomfort when eating. (Keep your pet safe and learn which 11 household items can make your furry friend seriously sick!)

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Dogs aren’t just an excellent disease model because they happen to get the same cancers. They’re also incredibly genetically similar to one another. Why? Because we’ve bred them that way.

Most purebred dogs are so inbred that we might as well be mating siblings at this point. The offspring of two siblings would have an inbreeding coefficient (a measure of how varied an organism’s genes are) of 0.25, and the vast majority of all possible purebred pairings have a coefficient above that mark. This isn’t great for disease risk, since otherwise rare disorders can easily become common when you have a small, closed gene pool, but it’s excellent if you want to study cancer genetics.

Many breeds are uniquely susceptible to specific types of cancer purely because of their heritage. “If you're a Scottish terrier, your odds of getting bladder cancer are 22 times higher than your average mutt,” explains Ostrander. That’s a massively increased risk, and it’s likely because of a set of inherited mutations that we’ve inadvertently bred into the group. But the fact that they’re all likely to have almost exactly the same mutation makes them a convenient sample for research.

Related: Most popular dog breeds: 

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American Kennel Club: Most popular dog breeds of 2017
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American Kennel Club: Most popular dog breeds of 2017

10. German Shorthaired Pointer 

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9. Yorkshire Terrier 

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8. Rottweiler

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7. Poodle

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6. Beagle

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5. Bulldog

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4. French Bulldog

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3. Golden Retriever

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2. German Shepherd 

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1. Labrador

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Humans are often way too genetically varied to trace cancers back to inherited mutations, even for the 55-ish percent of cancers that aren’t due to human habits. There are a few notable examples—the BRCA mutations for breast cancer, and an APC mutation for colorectal cancer are two of the most famous. But the mutation has to lead to such a strong familial pattern of disease that you can look at a small, fairly genetically similar group like a family. When that happens in humans, modern sequencing methods make it easy to pick out which gene or genes have the mutation.

But because all purebred dogs are as related to one another as we are to our immediate family members, every cancer they get is similar to the hereditary human cancers we already know about.

Take squamous cell carcinoma of the digit, for example. Squamous cells are skin cells, and the carcinomas that arise from them in dog digits are incredibly common among a few select breeds: giant schnauzers, Gordon setters, Briards, Kerry blue terriers, and black standard poodles. All of these dogs are prone to squamous cell cancers because they carry the same founder mutation— it produces too many copies of the gene KITL.

Not all dog cancers stem from a founder mutation. Some seem to have a shared susceptibility.

Related: Smartest dog breeds: 

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25 of the smartest dog breeds
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25 of the smartest dog breeds

BORDER COLLIE

According to Coren, these dogs are able to learn a new command in under five seconds and follow it at least 95 percent of the time.

POODLE

Second place on Coren’s list of smartest pups, these beauties are also great family dogs and hypoallergenic.

GERMAN SHEPHERD

There’s a reason why these guys make great crime-fighting pals—they’re obedient and alert (and handsome, too).

GOLDEN RETRIEVER

The ultimate family-friendly dog, these pooches are loyal, whip smart and very patient.

DOBERMAN PINSCHER

Playful and fun-loving, this breed is easy to train and fiercely loyal.

SHETLAND SHEEPDOG

Hey, only a highly intelligent breed would be able to raise a pig. (If you don’t get this Babereference, please go rent the movie immediately.)

LABRADOR RETRIEVER

The most popular dog breed in America is also one of the smartest. Great with families, these guys are loving and loyal.

PAPILLON

Named after the French word for “butterfly” (just look at those sweet, pointed ears), this toy breed is intelligent, energetic and friendly.

ROTTWEILER

Fans of children’s book Good Dog, Carl won’t be surprised to discover that rotties are fearless, devoted and confident. (And also very obedient, according to Coren.)

AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG

No wonder these canines are such excellent work dogs. But even without cows to herd, this breed makes great companions thanks to their obedience, loyalty and protective nature.

PEMBROKE WELSH CORGI

We wouldn’t expect anything less from Her Majesty’s favorite breed.

MINIATURE SCHNAUZER

Full of energy, these friendly pups are fast learners and sociable (and they have the best mustaches).

ENGLISH SPRINGER SPANIEL

Affectionate, athletic and attentive, these tail-waggers were bred as hunting dogs.

BELGIAN TERVUREN

Ideal watchdogs, these pooches are highly trainable and have boundless energy.

SCHIPPERKE

From the Belgian region of Flanders, this breed is curious, confident and clever. (Although these small pups definitely think they’re bigger than they are.)

BELGIAN SHEEPDOG

Those Belgians really know a thing or two about smart pooches, don’t they?

COLLIE

Well, duh—have you never seen Lassie before?

KEESHOND

Outgoing and playful, this sturdy breed is known for the markings around their eyes that looks like glasses.

GERMAN SHORTHAIRED POINTER

Cooperative and trainable, these pups are popular hunting dogs so they need plenty of exercise.

FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER

Great with kids, this friendly breed is also a popular therapy dog.

ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL

With their soft and luxurious coat, these guys love being friendly with kids, adults and even other pups. 

STANDARD SCHNAUZER

Devoted, loving and playful, these guys are also hypoallergenic.

BRITTANY

Known as sensitive souls who are very clever and attentive.

COCKER SPANIEL

Thanks to a certain fictional female dog, the cocker spaniel has a lot to live up to.

NOVA SCOTIA DUCK TOLLING RETRIEVER

If you’re looking for a dog that loves to play fetch, then look no further than this smarty-pants.

RELATED: 7 REASONS IT’S ACTUALLY BETTER TO LET YOUR DOG SLEEP IN YOUR BED

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Osteosarcomas, for instance, are a type of bone cancer that are fairly rare in humans, but many of the long-limbed breeds—Irish wolfhounds, great Danes, and Scottish deerhounds, to name a few—get them frequently. This is probably because the shared genetic heritage that gives these pups their elegant legs also gives them a shared predisposition to the disease. So researchers decided to see whether these dogs had mutations in common. As it turns out, they often have mutations in two genes called IL-8 and SLC1A3, both of which are known to cause some of the more malignant forms of human osteosarcoma. Now researchers can focus in on just those two genes to figure out exactly how osteosarcoma forms and progresses, rather than sift through many thousands.

Ostrander’s group focuses on three other diseases: gastric cancer, histiocytic sarcoma, and bladder cancer. “We’ve been interested in bladder cancer because a small number of breeds are at super high risk,” she explains, “and gastric cancer because it’s so lethal in both humans and dogs. In humans, it’s months from diagnosis to death. In dogs it can be a few days to weeks.” Both types of cancer affect certain breeds to a high degree, but don’t appear at all in most other dogs.

Histiocytic sarcoma, the third cancer in Ostrander’s focus group, is exceedingly rare in humans. But a quarter of all Bernese mountain dogs get it, as do 20 percent of flat-coated retrievers. These cancers arise from blood cells, and they seem to have developed separately in each breed. The specific pattern of disease—where it originates, how far the tumors spread—is different in Bernese and retrievers, even though it’s the same type of cancer. Bernese get tumors in the spleen, lungs, and liver, while retrievers get it in joints and muscles.

Related: Superpowers dogs have 

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11 superpowers dogs have
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11 superpowers dogs have

Super sniffer

Don’t even try to hide treats from your dog. His nose knows you have them. Just don’t let him get his paws on any foods dogs can’t eat. Dogs’ sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than that of humans. Just how powerful is that? As James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, told PBS, "If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well."

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Internal storm tracker

There are some weather myths you shouldn’t believe, like lightning never strikes the same place twice. But here’s one you should never doubt: Dogs can sense when bad weather is coming. Researchers don’t have an exact explanation—maybe your pet actually is a superhero!—but they have some theories. Dogs are sensitive to drops in barometric pressure that come with severe storms, and they can hear low frequencies that humans can’t, like far-off thunder and earthquake rumbles. You shouldn’t solely rely on your pet over meteorologists, but don’t let their weird behavior go unnoticed. It could save your life.

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Secret tail code

As if having an extra extremity wasn’t cool to begin with, dogs can also use their tails to communicate. (This is what your pet secretly wants you to know.) They lower their tails when they feel scared or nervous. When they’re alert or aroused, the tails wag higher. If a pooch is aggressive or feeling threatened, that tail will stick straight up in the air. Plus, dogs can tell how other canines are feeling based on what direction they wag in. Italian researchers discovered that dogs became more anxious when they saw others wag their tails to the left, as opposed to the right side or not at all. Previous studies showed that left-leaning tail wagging was a result of a dog having a negative experience, like facing a nasty dog.

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Doggy diagnosis

Dogs and humans know how to take care of each other. You look out for the signs that your dog is sick, and dogs can tell when you’re not 100 percent healthy, sometimes even before you know it. Thanks to their powerful sense of smell, dogs can pick up on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in human bodies, which include diseases like cancer. In 2006, dogs trained at the In Situ Foundation were able to detect lung cancer with 97 percent accuracy and breast cancer with 88 percent accuracy, just by sniffing breath samples from patients. Those are better results than needle biopsies.

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Telepathy

Well, kind of. Dogs can’t exactly read your mind, but they do know how you’re feeling. In a study published in Biology Letters, researchers showed dogs photos faces displaying different emotions while also playing an audio clip that showed a distinct emotion. What’s interesting is that the dogs looked at the face that corresponded to the type of voice that was being played, like a mad face when the audio clip was an angry voice. So your pet may not be able to process the words “You ate all of my cereal?!” like humans can, but she can definitely use your facial expressions and tone to pick up that you’re not in a great mood.

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Empathy

Yes, empathy is a superpower (one that humans can harness with a few exercises!). Not only do dogs and pups understand your feelings, but they can also empathize with you, according to a report from Psychology Today. Psychologists from Goldsmiths College in London conducted the same study on 18 dogs: Each dog would watch while their owner sat across from a stranger. The two individuals would take turns talking normally, humming in an unusual pattern, and pretending to cry. The psychologists reasoned that when their owners cried, the pets would lay on them, nuzzle, lick, or otherwise try to comfort them. But the dogs ended up also comforting the crying strangers, even though they had no emotional connection, just because they saw that they were distressed. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all empathized like dogs?

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Built-in GPS

You’ve probably heard stories about pets that found their way home despite terrible odds and long distances. For instance, this cat broke out of a shelter to go back to his rescuer. But once again, dogs’ noses are a crucial part of their uncanny sense of direction. They are able to follow their own scent trails for miles to retrace their steps, and if the wind is right, they can even use their owners’ scent as well, TIME reported.

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Sonic hearing

While we meager humans can only hear sounds up to 20,000 Hz (vibrations per second), dogs can hear up to 60,000 Hz. Dogs’ large ears are on the top of their heads, prime real estate to pick up noises humans miss. Plus, they have about 18 ear muscles, which allow them to rotate, tilt, and raise their ears to get an amplified sound. If you thought these household noises were annoying, just think of how much they bother your pooch!

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Night vision

Our eyes get more accustomed to darkness the longer we’re exposed to it. (That’s why you should never turn on the lights if you hear an intruder.) Dogs, on the other hand, have eyes that are made to automatically see well in the dark. Their large pupils let more light in, and the rods in their eyes work better in dim light. But the biggest factor is the tapetum, which reflects light at the back of the eye. That helps them see in light that’s five times dimmer than what humans need to see clearly.

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Super speed

Take it from us: You don’t want to challenge your dog to a race. On average, canines clock in at about 19 miles per hour, but many can go over 35 mph if they’re running in short spurts. The fastest dog breed is the greyhound, which can reach 45 mph. To compare, the fastest humans can only run 28 mph. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run, though. It can make you live longer.

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The best prescription ever

Just being in the presence of a dog can make you healthier. Petting dogs can reduce stress, help your body release a relaxation hormone, and lower blood pressure (which, in turn, reduces your risk for heart disease.) Studies have also shown that pet owners are generally happier and more trusting. Plus, they go to the doctor less frequently for minor problems.

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This isn’t so useful for humans, since it’s such a rare form of cancer, but it is useful for understanding how cellular mutations affect disease progression. Two breeds, same cancer, distinct progressions: whatever’s different is likely causing the difference in progression. “We’ve been fascinated by that,” Ostrander says, “because we know it’s different genes for Bernese and flat-coated retrievers.” With more study, those genes might prove to be crucial in directing which bits of the body are most susceptible to cancer.

Once we study purebreds more, researchers like Ostrander hope we’ll be able to find novel ways to treat human cancers. Dogs can help out there, too.

Mouse models of cancer often aren’t helpful for testing new therapies, because what works in mice won’t necessarily work in humans. “Mice are so limited,” says Ostrander, because mice simply don’t get cancer the way we do. To study them, we usually induce cancer in particular parts of their body, which is useful for performing precise experiments and understanding very particular genes. But a breast cancer with only one induced mutation isn’t anything like a naturally occurring breast cancer, which has at least a few more genetic anomalies driving its progression.

Related: Dogs around the office 

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Tech company offices have gone to the dogs
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Tech company offices have gone to the dogs

Founder and CEO Jessica Genet, 29, sits in her office with her dog Flexo at the Lumi office in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Kyle Fresques, 27, sits at his desk with his dog at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Head of International Development Greg Pritchard, 36, sits at his desk with his Shih Tzu Miles at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Product Manager Merrill Bajana, 26, sits at her desk with her dog Roger at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Head of International Development Greg Pritchard, 36, sits at his desk with his Shih Tzu Miles at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A dog sits under a desk at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Alyssa Young, 26, (L) and Kyle Fresques, 27, sit at their desks at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Founder and CEO Jessica Genet, 29, plays with her dog Flexo at the Lumi office in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Shih Tzu Miles sits in the office of owner Head of International Development Greg Pritchard, 36, at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Shih Tzu Miles sits in the office of owner Head of International Development Greg Pritchard, 36, at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Kyle Fresques, 27, sits at his desk with his dog at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Scott Wharton, 28, waits for the elevator with his dog Finley at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Alyssa Young, 26, (L) and Kyle Fresques, 27, sit at their desks at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Director of Web Engineering Keith Rives, 28, sits at his desk with his golden retriever Louise at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Head of International Development Greg Pritchard, 36, sits at his desk with his Shih Tzu Miles at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

GumGum CEO and founder Ophir Tanz (R) holds his dog as he chats with an investor at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Director of Web Engineering Keith Rives, 28, sits at his desk with his golden retriever Louise at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A golden retriever called Louise sits at the foot of her owner's desk at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Scott Wharton, 28, sits at his desk with his dog Finley at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A dog called Felicity sits in the office of her owner, President and COO Phil Schrader, 40, at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A dog sits next to a desk at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Kristin Rivait, 26, sits at her desk with her dog Simba at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Melissa Rasak, 28, sits at her desk with her dog Luna at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. Pictu

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A dog sits behind desks at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

GumGum CEO and founder Ophir Tanz (R) holds his dog as he chats with an investor at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A dog clean-up kit is seen at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Sash Catanzarite, 30, makes coffee at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Chief Magic Officer Ben Plomion holds a dog at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Caroline Devine, 30, pets her dog at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A dog walks past the reception desk at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

President and COO Phil Schrader, 40, sits in his office with his dog Felicity at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A dog walks past the reception desk at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Director of Web Engineering Keith Rives, 28, sits at his desk with his golden retriever Louise at the GumGum office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

The Tradesy reception area is seen in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Tradesy CEO and founder Tracy DiNunzio, 38, works next to her dog Fiona Applepants at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Morgan Wynn, 29, sits with her dog Shredder at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Fiona Applepants, dog of Tradesy CEO and founder Tracy DiNunzio, 38, sits next to a computer at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Founder and CEO Jessica Genet, 29, sits in her office with her dog Flexo at the Lumi office in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Tradesy CEO and founder Tracy DiNunzio, 38, works next to her dog Fiona Applepants at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Kristin Rivait, 26, sits at her desk with her dog Simba at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Fiona Applepants, dog of Tradesy CEO and founder Tracy DiNunzio, 38, sits next to a computer at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Sash Catanzarite, 30, (R) sits at his desk with his dog at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Taylor Pozen, 26, works with her dog Rari at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Taylor Pozen, 26, works with her dog Rari at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Founder and CEO Jessica Genet, 29, sits with her dog Flexo at the Lumi office in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Sash Catanzarite, 30, (R) sits at his desk with his dog at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Dogs are seen at the Lumi office in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Tradesy employee Caroline Devine, 30, walks a dog outside the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Taylor Pozen, 26, works with her dog Rari at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A dog sits next to a woman working at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Dogs are seen at the Lumi office in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Sash Catanzarite, 30, (R) sits at his desk with his dog at the Tradesy office in Santa Monica, California, U.S., June 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Founder and CEO Jessica Genet, 29, walks with her dog Flexo through the Lumi office in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Founder and CEO Jessica Genet, 29, walks with her dog Flexo through the Lumi office in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 1, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

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But dogs, unlike rodents, get these cancers naturally—or at least, as naturally as an inbred population can get them.

That means treatments that work on canine cancers often also work in humans. And that’s great news for both of us. So much of animal work in labs necessarily involves giving a creature cancer only to try to cure it. Dogs already have cancer—so any research we do on them will help their outcome, too.

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