Every year, a staggering 41 million people die of a so-called non-communicable diseases (NCDs), amounting to 71% of all global deaths (WHO, 2021). These are defined as non-infectious conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological, endocrine and musculoskeletal conditions. However, NCDs do not only affect humans. They are the most prevalent cause of death in companion animals too.
The concept of One Medicine
The concept of One Medicine can contribute to the transition towards medical research without the use of laboratory animals. The close similarities between humans and companion animals when it comes to spontaneously occuring diseases or disorders can serve an essential link in the scientifically reliable transition from preclinical research to clinical application, without having to rely on laboratory animals.
Helping veterinary patients in need while learning from their response to new treatment strategies can accelerate innovation in human and veterinary medicine in various ways:
Consent for use of patient tissue or data
As the pressure to protect personal data increases, accessing relevant patient data or diseased tissue is becoming more challenging. In veterinary patients legal requirements are less strict than in human patients, meaning it is easier to obtain the necessary research material for certain diseases.
Availability of rare patient tissue and data
Some diseases or disorders are substantially more common in veterinary patients than in humans, for example certain types of cancer (phaeochromocytoma, osteosarcoma, lymphoma) or endocrine disorders (such as Cushing disease, caused by a pituitary tumour). Data can therefore be collected more rapidly, which is also sufficiently heterogeneous and therefore provides a realistic impression of the patient population.
Experimental treatment for the benefit of animals and humans
At present, for veterinary patients suffering from an incurable, terminal disease euthanasia is often the only option. By administering an experimental treatment to these patients – provided that such treatment has been deemed safe in the preclinical phase – can be an important step towards the effective application of research into medical practice, thereby giving substance to the concept of One Medicine for the greater good of human and animal patients.