Regan, D., Garcia, K., Thamm, D. 2018. Clinical, pathological, and ethical considerations for the conduct of clinical trials in dogs with naturally occurring cancer: A comparative approach to accelerate translational drug development. ILAR Journal 59(1), 99-110.

The role of comparative oncology in translational research is receiving increasing attention from drug developers and the greater biomedical research community. Pet dogs with spontaneous cancer are important and underutilized translational models, owing to dogs’ large size and relative outbreeding, combined with their high incidence of certain tumor histotypes with significant biological, genetic, and histological similarities to their human tumor counterparts. Dogs with spontaneous tumors naturally develop therapy resistance and spontaneous metastasis, all in the context of an intact immune system. These fundamental features of cancer biology are often lacking in induced or genetically engineered preclinical tumor models and likely contribute to their poor predictive value and the associated overall high failure rate in oncology drug development. Thus, the conduct of clinical trials in pet dogs with naturally occurring cancer represents a viable surrogate and valuable intermediary step that should be increasingly incorporated into the cancer drug discovery and development pipeline. The development of molecular-targeted therapies has resulted in an expanded role of the pathologist in human oncology trials, and similarly the expertise of veterinary pathologists will be increasingly valuable to all phases of comparative oncology trial design and conduct. In this review, we provide a framework of clinical, ethical, and pathology-focused considerations for the increasing integration of translational research investigations in dogs with spontaneous cancer as a means to accelerate clinical cancer discovery and drug development.

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