A rare and difficult to cure bone cancer in children has been found to have significant genetic similarities with the same type of cancer in dogs. This insight could improve understanding of the disease and lead the development of more effective treatments.

Osteosarcoma (OS) is a rare bone cancer in children, but relatively common in dogs. Survival outcomes for children are poor, even with surgery and chemotherapy, as approximately 30% of patients die within five years of a diagnosis. Understanding how the disease progresses is key to enabling a medical breakthrough.

Genomic analysis of OS in dogs and humans reveals similarities in the tumours. These includes low mutation rate, high structural complexity and distinct genetic hallmarks that encourage metathesis. Dogs are therefore a good biological model to study OS, which could help identify biomarkers to monitor the disease.

Dogs could also be used to understand how the disease progresses to its metastatic form. Once a cancer has metathesized, meaning it has spread elsewhere in the body from the original tumour, it is more difficult to treat. Researchers should decide if testing on dogs will lead to enough advances in disease understanding to warrant it. However, animal testing could also lead to more effective treatments for the disease in dogs.

OS has had no major breakthroughs in the last ten years. However, increased understanding of the genetic drivers of metathesis could lead to a future treatment.