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Posted 10.26.04
 
 
   

MU Scientists Use National Database to Identify Cancer Links in Dogs

Researchers say Findings Could Lead to Treatments for Humans

COLUMBIA, Mo. In 1964, the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health created a database to store information about clinical cases discharged from US and Canadian veterinary medical teaching hospitals. In 1974, a consortium of those hospitals was formed to continue operating the database. That database now contains more than 6.5 million clinical abstracts, and University of Missouri-Columbia researchers are using the information to answer questions about cancer that affects both dogs and humans.

"There are many cancers in dogs that behave similarly in humans," said Allen Hahn, professor emeritus of veterinary medicine and surgery and president of the Veterinary Medical DataBase. "The database can sort cases by diagnosis, demographics, discharge status and many other features. This allows us to make a number of comparisons that we normally would not be able to do."

Hahn, along with Carolyn Henry, associate professor of veterinary oncology, and Charles Caldwell, Cancer Research Center Missouri Chair in Cancer Research and director of the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, used the database to compare trends in canine lymphoma. The researchers found that female dogs that had not been spayed were the least likely to develop lymphoma. The researchers believe their findings can be applied to humans to determine who might be most at risk.

"Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is approximately 50 percent more common among men than women, and we found similar trends in canine lymphoma using the veterinary medical database," Henry said. "Our findings may imply that estrogen is a protective factor against lymphoma. We also want to explore other questions about factors such as lifestyle, hormone status and obesity and how each of these might relate to cancer."

While a similar database does exist for human patients, scientists can ask more specific questions using the information contained in the veterinary database because animal patients represented in the veterinary database generally have much more controlled lifestyles in terms of at-risk behaviors and dietary choices than their human counterparts.

"We can't always answer specific medical questions as they relate to humans," Caldwell said. "However, we are able to ask the veterinary database questions of the animal data that we couldn't ask of any human database system. For instance, we were interested in potential hormonal effects regarding lymphomas, so we examined the difference in dogs that had been spayed or neutered compared to intact animals. There are a lot of other questions we want to propose following our recent study."

The researchers will present their study during the Veterinary Cancer Society's 24th Annual Conference, to be held Nov. 3 through Nov. 6 in Kansas City, Mo. The abstract will be published in the Journal of Veterinary and Comparative Oncology following the conference.

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