The enormous biologic complexity of human cancer has stimulated the development of more appropriate experimental models that could resemble in a natural and spontaneous manner the physiopathologic aspects of cancer biology. Companion animals have many desired characteristics that fill the gap betweenin vitroandin vivostudies, and these characteristics have proven to be important in understanding many complex molecular aspects of human cancer. Spontaneous tumors in dogs share a wide variety of epidemiologic, biologic, and clinical features with human cancer, which makes this animal model both attractive and underused in oncology research.
In this review, we summarize the importance of naturally occurring canine tumors as valuable tools for studying numerous aspects of human cancer as well as the potential use of this animal model for the development of new cancer treatments. We address specifically the use of canine mammary tumors as an increasingly powerful model to study human breast cancer.