Cancers are major diseases in humans and dogs. In humans, a drug that many survivors of breast cancer take to prevent a relapse, called tamoxifen, often stops working after several years of treatment. Unfortunately, it is still unknown why it stops working, and there is currently no way to predict which patients may or may not stop responding to it. In dogs, an aggressive tumor in the blood vessels, called hemangiosarcoma, kills up to 2 million dogs yearly, yet effective treatments do not exist. Most unfortunately, the extremely limited knowledge available about these dog tumors, which are unlike any prominent human cancer, is a major roadblock to the development of effective therapies.
Regarding human cancers, researchers in the Coonrod lab are working on finding cellular pathways that enable breast cancer cells to become resistant to tamoxifen. Finding these pathways is critical if we are ever going to discover new ways to prevent or block the tumor’s resistance to this type of therapy.
With respect to dog tumors, Coonrod’s group is applying the most advanced techniques in human cancer research to identify any particular genes, or groups of genes, that may drive the tumor’s growth. Pinpointing these genes is only a first step, but a significant one in deciding how to best develop effective therapeutics against these tumors.