LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Just a day after rescuing a Smooth Collie mix from her local shelter, Sara Laufer from Los Angeles was shocked to learn her new dog Alli had breast cancer.
Laufer took Allie to see Mona Rosenberg at the Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City.
“She did have surgery to remove her breast tumors and then she started on a brand new chemotherapy drug that we’ve not been able to use in veterinary medicine but has been used for many, many different types of cancers in people for more than 20 years,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg says the human formulation, Taxol, was too toxic for dogs, but a company in Sweden is reformulating it. The drug is still in clinical trials, but Allie was able to take it.
For years, veterinarians have adapted treatments for people on animals, but now, animal treatments are being adapted for humans.
It’s called Zoobiquity.
Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, a cardiologist at UCLA, and author Kathryn Bowers coined the term “Zoobiquity” in their book, which explores the common traits between animals and humans.
“There are so many overlapping conditions between humans and animals, from heart failure and diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer,” Natterson-Horowitz said.
Pictures compare pacemakers inside a dog and one inside a lawyer and lymphoma cells in a llama and in a banker.
“When physicians learn about veterinary medicine, about the power of understanding your disease by looking at its presentation in different species, not just in homo sapiens,” Natterson-Horowitz said.
Natterson-Horowitz says not only can animals be the key to understanding a host of human problems, but knowing that they can get the same diseases helps destigmatize the blame people may feel when diagnosed with bad news.
“On the one hand, there’s no question that we humans have some habits and we do some things that dial up our risk of developing certain diseases, of course,” Natterson-Horowitz said. “On the other hand, the vulnerability to these diseases is actually not uniquely human. It’s species spanning and even ancient.”
As for Allie, she is a breast cancer survivor and has been in remission since February thanks to a chemotherapy treatment that’s helped humans as well.
“She’s chasing her tail and running around in puppy circles and that makes everything worth it,” Laufer said.