Bioethics Blogs

Precision Oncology: Nanoparticles Target Bone Cancers in Dogs

Caption: Veterinary researcher Timothy Fan with his healthy family pet Ember.
Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

Many people share their homes with their pet dogs. Spending years under the same roof with the same environmental exposures, people and dogs have something else in common that sometimes gets overlooked. They can share some of the same diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. By studying these diseases in dogs, researchers can learn not only to improve care for people but for their canine friends as well.

As a case in point, an NIH-funded team of researchers recently tested a new method of delivering chemotherapy drugs for osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that affects dogs and people, typically teenagers and older adults. Their studies in dogs undergoing treatment for osteosarcoma suggest that specially engineered, bone-seeking nanoparticles might safely deliver anti-cancer drugs precisely to the places where they are most needed. These early findings come as encouraging news for the targeted treatment of inoperable bone cancers and other malignancies that spread to bone.

Nanoparticles are engineered in the lab by manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale into custom-made, three-dimensional materials that measure under 100 nanometers (a nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter). These materials can be programmed to seek out something unique about a tissue and bypass other parts of the body. Cancer researchers seek to utilize this homing ability to deliver a chemotherapy drug directly to a patient’s tumor, boosting its effectiveness and limiting its side effects.

But the development of nanoparticles to fight cancer has been slowed by some natural limitations of testing them in mice, the preferred mammalian research model.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.