Without a doubt, our companion animals provide valuable information in our quest for understanding cancer. In alignment with that work, an emerging area of study is examining the role of environmental exposures in the health of companion animals. And because our pets drink the same water, breathe the same air, and are exposed to similar pollutants, they may provide us with important insights into environmental risk factors for cancer in both pets and people.

To amplify and explore the potential of this work, a three-day public workshop titled The Role of Companion Animals as Sentinels for Predicting Environmental Exposure Effects on Aging and Cancer Susceptibility in Humans will take place at the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine in Washington D.C., December 1-3, 2021. The event is co-sponsored by the Flint Animal Cancer Center in collaboration with eight institutions and government agencies.

FACC director Dr. Rod Page was instrumental in bringing the workshop content idea to the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine. Following the approval process, he helped lead the program development with chair Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., retired director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and a committee of scientists representing institutions around the country. The completed workshop agenda features presentations and discussions with more than 30 experts from human and animal health-related fields.

“We have been inspired by the enthusiastic response from the scientific community for this workshop recognizing that cancer and aging are interdependent phenomena affecting all species,” said Page. “It is our hope that better understanding our environments’ impact on cancer in both companion animals and humans will accelerate new research opportunities.”

Page also will present his work with the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, a longitudinal research program working to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle, and genetic risk factors for cancer, aging, and other diseases. This study may serve as a template for future research defining gene-environment interactions and cancer.

A summary of the presentations and discussions at the workshop will be published by the National Academies Press and made available online, free of charge. Learn more about the workshop topics and featured speakers.