By treating pets with new drugs and vaccines, they can use the information to design more effective treatments for humans.
Aspen has osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, that up till now, had a very poor outcome for patients. Despite limb amputation and chemotherapy, 60% of dogs with osteosarcoma died within 10 months of diagnosis.
But apsen is lucky. His owners have volunteered him to be a part of a bone-cancer vaccine study at penn vet.
It has shown great promise in attacking the agressive tumor.
"We've been able to demonstrate that it is effective in preventing osteosarcoma from coming back," says Dr. Nicola Mason of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
Results have been impressive. In the first five furry patients who were vaccinated over a year ago, four are still alive and tumor free.
And there have been no complications.
"So far , we've found that the vaccine appears to be very safe," says Mason.
And what's even more interesting, the vaccine was not originally designed for animals.
"It was designed for humans, in fact the gene we were targeting was expressed in human breast cancer," explains Yvonne Paterson, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
But the genes were similar to canine osteosarcoma. So Dr. Mason asked to test the vaccine on dogs first.
By looking at the canine data researchers hope to design a safe vaccine not only for dogs but one that can help children with osteosarcoma and adults with other deadly tumors, including advanced breast cancer.
(Carl Azuz for CNN's Health Minute)
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