Editor’s note: Dr. Nicole Ehrhart, CU Cancer Center investigator and professor of surgical oncology at Colorado State University, wrote this piece for The Conversation in recognition of World Cancer Day 2017.  

The author, center, and Dr. Anna Conti, left, and student Kelsey Parrish with Conti’s Basset hound, Picasso, who had surgery for cancer. William Cotton/CSU Photography.

The author, center, and Dr. Anna Conti, left, and student Kelsey Parrish with Conti’s Basset hound, Picasso, who had surgery for cancer. William Cotton/CSU Photography.

“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart… Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.” ― John Grogan, “Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog.”

Isn’t it true? We learn so much from our dogs. But beyond what man’s best friend can teach us about enjoying life, they share something else with us. Cancer diagnoses in dogs are on the rise, as are cancer diagnoses in people. In fact, canine cancer is the leading cause of death in pets over the age of 10 years.

This confluence, it turns out, can be beneficial to cancer research. A field of study known as “comparative oncology” has recently emerged as a promising means to help cure cancer. Comparative oncology researchers study the similarities between naturally occurring cancers in pets and cancers in people in order to provide clues to treat cancer more effectively.

In fact, phase 1 and 2 clinical trials in comparative oncology are underway at 22 sites across the country, including Colorado State University, where I conduct research and am a surgical oncologist for animals. Read more.