AVMA News

NIH program in canine comparative oncology marks 20 years of progress

Comparative Oncology Program advances the study of cancer in dogs to help canine and human patients


By Katie Burns
Published: 21 April 2023


Two decades ago, Dr. Chand Khanna proposed what might have seemed like a radical idea: creating a program at the National Institutes of Health to promote the study of naturally occurring cancer in dogs.

At the time, Dr. Khanna was a practicing veterinary oncologist as well as a postdoctoral fellow at the NIH National Cancer Institute studying metastasis in osteosarcoma. He convinced his bosses of the concept of studying canine cancer as a model for human cancer to improve treatment for canine and human patients alike.

This year, the Comparative Oncology Program within the NCI Center for Cancer Research is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The program features the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium, a network of academic centers in comparative oncology.

“If I was to reflect on 20 years of comparative oncology, there’s a couple of things that have happened,” said Dr. Khanna, who went on to become the first director of the Comparative Oncology Program. First of all, “It’s not as crazy an idea, whereas when people would hear about this idea, it was often from me first. And now they’ve heard about if from many other people, and it’s not so crazy.

“And something I had to get used to was that I now hear nonveterinarians talking about comparative oncology with high praise and interest,” particularly physicians.

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