04/19/2013 09:36 EDT | Updated 06/19/2013 05:12 EDT

Cancer Treatments Tested On Dogs

view of two dogs lying golden ...
SASKATOON - The University of Saskatchewan and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine have teamed up to test out some new cancer treatments on dogs.

Troy Harkness, a professor at the university, says dogs are an excellent model because they develop spontaneous tumours that are just like human tumours.

He and other researchers are studying the effect of the diabetes drug Metformin on drug-resistant lymphoma.

Harkness says Metformin's potential is enormous, as it lowers the defences of the drug-resistant tumour and allows it to be treated again with chemotherapy.

The researchers are currently working with a 10-year-old golden retriever mix named Jake.

"Right now, people with drug-resistant cancer, there's no hope," says Harkness. "You just treat them the best you can and keep them as comfortable as possible. If this could go toward helping these people ... that was really a benefit."

Valerie MacDonald of the veterinary college said it's very helpful to study dogs such as Jake.

"Their lifespan is shorter than ours and so we can follow pretty much the same progression just in a shorter time frame," she said.

Already, results from initial testing are looking good.

"Our preliminary data so far is extremely encouraging. We're really, really happy with it. I'm convinced it's going to work," said Harkness.

"(With) human trials, you're looking at five to 10 years down the road. With the dog trials, if we get enough dogs this year, next year we'll have some really good data."

In order to have better data, Harkness and MacDonald are looking for more dogs with drug-resistant lymphoma to participate in the study.

"We are looking for dogs who have been diagnosed with lymphoma, who have been treated with chemotherapy and are now at the point they have come out of remission," MacDonald said.

Any dogs who participate in the study will receive free cancer treatments.

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