Increasing preclinical development relevance in oncology through a comparative approach in naturally occurring cancers in dogs

R&D : how to increase efficiency of cancer drug development in humans?


Despite increasing investments in Research and Development, the attrition rate of drug candidates has reached an unprecedented level in the pharmaceutical industry. Most drugs fail in the clinical stages, despite proven efficacy and safety in animal models. The cancer drug development process is particularly inefficient.



Poor performance of the traditional in vitro systems and the limited clinical relevance of experimental in vivo models are one of the main reasons accounting for this translational gap. Standard cancer drug efficacy models study tumors on animals. They are induced in genetically identical or genetically engineered rodents. A reference model is the induction of clonal tumors under the skin of nude mice that lack an immune system and thymus gland.


Comparative oncology is the study of naturally occurring cancers using animals as models for human disease. Spontaneous cancers in dogs share many features with human cancers, such as osteosarcoma, breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, melanoma, soft tissue sarcoma etc. The evaluation of a human cancer drug candidate in clinical trials in dogs presenting with spontaneous tumors can provide invaluable information before the drug begins human testing. At the same time, dogs can benefit from cancer drugs that have been developed for the treatment of human malignancies. This innovative approach has gained significant attention in recent years, with both academic and private initiatives implementing clinical studies in client-owned dogs.

Canine osteosarcoma is arguably the most relevant model for human osteosarcoma. Key features of this highly aggressive malignancy are summarized in the table below:


A. Loewa et al. Human disease models in drug development. Nat Rev Bioeng 2023
P.S. Meltzer and L.J. Helman. New horizons in the treatment of osteosarcoma. NEJM 2021
M. Romanucci et al. Canine osteosarcoma as a model in comparative oncology. Front Vet Sci 2023
S. Simpson et al. Comparative review of canine and human osteosarcoma: morphology, epidemiology, prognosis, treatment and genetics. Acta Vet Scand 2017


Article written by the medical doctors, veterinarians, pharmacists, and PhDs from our R&D team:

Robert Barthel, Marie-Paul Lachaud, Claudia Ferreira, Denis Ravel, Claire Bennet, and Véronique Privat

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