High levels of cholesterol, which may prove detrimental to human health, may play a key role in longer survival and better prognosis for dogs with a common form of bone cancer, researchers have found.
The findings showed that elevated total cholesterol was significantly associated with a reduced risk for overall mortality in dogs with osteosarcoma -- a type of malignant tumour that's often diagnosed in humans as well, typically afflicting teenagers and young adults.
"When people think of cholesterol they think of cheeseburgers and heart attacks. However, cholesterol is involved with many key processes and structures in the body like cell membranes, bone health and the immune system," said Haley Leeper, a veterinary oncology resident at the Oregon State University in the US.
For the study, published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice, Leeper and the team 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.
The results showed that the dogs with elevated total cholesterol had a median survival time of 455 days, more than 200 days than the median survival time for dogs with normal cholesterol.
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 numbers; just three of the 30 dogs with broken bones, and only two of the 31 healthy animals, showed high cholesterol.
"This is one of the first steps into identifying cholesterol as a potential biomarker for canine osteosarcoma," Leeper said.
Researchers do not have answers as to why high cholesterol is associated with this disease and with a better prognosis, but future studies that follow dogs' lipid content in the blood may shed light on the mechanisms behind cholesterol's role in enhanced survival.