Using pets to find cures for diseases

3:52 PM, Mar 4, 2014   |    comments
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(CNN) -- Imagine if pets could help find a cure for cancer, or any other disease.

By treating pets with new drugs and vaccines, doctors can use the information to design more effective treatments for humans. 

Aspen the dog has a bone cancer that usually has a pretty bad outcome. Even with limb amputation and chemotherapy, 60 percent of dogs died within 10 months of diagnosis.

Aspen is trying a bone cancer vaccine, which already has had impressive results. Of the first five furry patients vaccinated over a year ago, four are still alive and tumor free, with no complications.

This, even though the vaccine wasn't originally designed for animals. 

"It was designed for humans, in fact the gene we were targeting was expressed in human breast cancer," says microbiologist Yvonne Paterson.

The genes were similar to "canine osteo-sarcoma,"  so the doctor tested the vaccine on dogs first. 

By looking at the canine data, researchers hope to design a safe vaccine, not just for dogs, but also for kids and adults with tumors. 

This even includes advanced breast cancer.

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