Researchers say one of the best ways to find new treatments for cancer is to study tissue samples from tumors. The problem is that scientists don't always have the amount of tissue they need.* Thanks to man's best friend, that could be changing. In an effort to find cancer treatments for both people and pets, the two are teaming up.

Inside a deep freeze, in containers stored at more than 300 degrees below zero, researchers are looking for answers. They want to find better ways to battle cancer and the frozen tissue samples, donated by dogs, just might hold the key.

"Dogs and humans get a lot of the same types of cancer, so the more we can learn about cancer in dogs, it's going to help the humans as well," says Laura Rush, DVM, PhD, at Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

It was that idea that lead to one of the first nationwide tissue banks at Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center. Here, researchers can study and share tumor tissue that can be just as valuable as human samples, but much easier to find thanks to doggie donors like Bodie. When the 7 year old greyhound lost a leg to cancer, his owner saw an opportunity to give back.

"He may not make it, but I feel good that even if he doesn't make it, his tissue may help a child someday," says Rhonda Morey, Bodie's owner.

That's entirely possible. Experts say under the microscope, human and dog cancers are nearly identical. They hope to collect and share some 3,000 samples over the next three years.

"We hope that our experiments on these tumor samples will eventually lead to better treatments, earlier detection strategies and better ways to prevent cancer," says Rush.

Scientists preserve those samples by flash-freezing them within five minutes of removing the tissue. Right now, they're only working with dogs, but they plan to include cats in the future. There are only three national tissue banks in the U.S.

*Pricey Cancer Genome Project Struggles with Sample Shortage, Nature Medicine, Emily Waltz, April 1, 2007, Volume 13 page 391

Ohio State University

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