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We can always accomplish more when we work together. This is especially true when dealing with new and emerging fields and in areas where few people are experts. The field of oncology for exotic species is really in its infancy. When we compare what we know about cancer in humans, and even in dogs and cats, exotic animal veterinarians are often working in the dark. We are expected to extrapolate treatment protocols, prognostic information and diagnostic planning from humans, dog and cats, but have very little data to suggest that these extrapolations are appropriate.

Our patients deserve better. They deserve to have a dedicated team of clinicians, researchers, and others who are interested in discovering the basic biology behind their diseases, how they will respond to cancer therapies, disease markers and prognostic indicators and ways to improve treatment for species that are currently under-represented in cancer research.

Human research can benefit from our species. Few people realize that many of the advances in human cancer research were made by studying cancer-causing viruses in other species, including chickens. Many of the basic genetic alterations that cause cancer occur in genes that are highly conserved across a wide range of species, because these genes are important for essential biological functions.

  • Cancer research needs better, more faithful models
  • Many of the most powerful cancer genes are highly conserved
  • The NIH and other groups are recognizing the power of comparative oncology
  • Lessons from canine tumors have informed human cancer treatments
  • A whole world of cancer biology awaits in companion exotic and zoological species
  • Veterinary cancer therapy will only improve with advanced knowledge