Dogs with cancer live longer thanks to high cholesterol

US researchers have found that elevated cholesterol may play a role in longer survival times for dogs with a common form of bone cancer.

In their study—which is published in the June issue of The Journal of Small Animal Practice—Haley Leeper, a veterinary oncology resident at the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine and collaborators compared 64 dogs with osteosarcoma against two control groups: 30 dogs that had suffered traumatic bone fractures and 31 healthy dogs similar in age and weight to the animals with cancer.

What they discovered was that nearly half of the dogs with cancer—29 of the 64—had elevated levels of total serum cholesterol, a dramatically higher rate than occurred in either control population; just three of the 30 dogs with broken bones, and only two of the 31 healthy animals, showed high cholesterol.

Of the dogs stricken with osteosarcoma, 35 had the cancer in a leg which was subsequently amputated, followed by chemotherapy, which is the standard-of-care treatment.

Those dogs with elevated total cholesterol had a median survival time of 455 days—200 more days than the median survival time for dogs with normal cholesterol.

“This is one of the first steps into identifying cholesterol as a potential biomarker for canine osteosarcoma,” Leeper said. “We don’t have answers as to why high cholesterol is associated with this disease and with a better prognosis, but we’re hoping to advance these findings in future research.”

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