By Lynne Peeples, Huffington Post
(Thanks to Lynne Peeples and the Huffington Post for this article.)
When his beloved Great Pyrenees Malcolm died of bone cancer at age 6, Luke Robinson resolved to learn why.
“I didn’t even know dogs could get cancer,” he said.
The nagging mystery would send Robinson walking over 2,000 miles from Austin, Texas, to Boston with his other two dogs to raise awareness for canine cancer. It would also inspire his launch of an organization devoted to finding an answer — through the discovery of links between dog and human tumors.
“Breast cancer was the first cancer we funded,” said Robinson, co-founder of the nonprofit 2 Million Dogs . “Under a microscope, a mammary tumor from a dog and from a person look the same.”
As the prolific pink ribbons seek to remind us this month, breast cancer’s grip remains strong and its reach ever-expanding. One in eight women in the U.S. will now face the diagnosis — a rise of 40 percent in just one generation.
Perhaps less well-known, however, is that most breast cancers are not hereditary and that cancer is the leading disease-related killer of dogs, with mammary tumors the most common type afflicting females. (Early spaying significantly reduces the risk of such tumors.) These facts, combined with mounting evidence of harm posed by certain chemicals used on carpets, couches, food bowls, squeaky toys and manicured lawns enjoyed by people and pets — has led some experts and advocates to recommend a shift in breast cancer research and funding.
Only about 10 percent of breast cancer research dollars are devoted to its environmental causes, according to a federal interagency report published in February.
Luke Robinson and his two dogs, Murphy and Hudson, peer from a tent during his canine cancer awareness walk from Austin, Tex. to Boston in 2008. (Marei Burnfield)
“Dogs drink our same water, they are exposed to the same toxins,” Robinson said. “The logical assumption is that indeed there is an environmental basis for these cancers. But a lot of research and funding comes from pharmaceutical companies. And there’s no money in cause and prevention.”
Overall, growing interest in canine cancer has led to new comparative oncology research at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, with financial help from 2 Million Dogs. Investigators are treating shelter dogs that have developed mammary cancer, while gleaning information about the progression of the disease. The researchers hope to identify treatments that will benefit both dogs and humans.
Penn veterinarians previously studied dogs involved in September 11 search and rescue missions thought to be exposed to chemicals in the rubble. They found no elevated rates of major health problems in the decade after the attack.
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