High cholesterol is a bad thing, right?
Not always, according to Oregon State University (OSU) researchers.
"When people think of cholesterol they think of cheeseburgers and heart attacks," says veterinary oncology resident Haley Leeper of OSU. "However, cholesterol is involved with many key processes and structures in the body like cell membranes, bone health and the immune system."
In the collaborative study between OSU and Iowa State University, researchers compared 64 dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer) against two control groups. One of the control groups had 30 dogs with traumatic bone fractures, and the other group had 31 healthy dogs of comparable age and weight to the group of dogs with cancer.
The researchers' findings yielded some interesting information. 29 of the 64 dogs in the first group had elevated levels of total serum cholesterol. Their levels were far higher than those of the dogs in either control group. Only three of the 30 dogs and two of the 31 dogs had high cholesterol.
Furthermore, of the 64 dogs, 35 had the cancer in a limb. The affected limbs were amputated and the dogs then underwent chemotherapy, which is standard protocol for the diagnosis. The median survival time for the dogs with high cholesterol levels was 455 days, which was upwards of 200 days longer than the median survival time for the dogs in the group with normal cholesterol levels.
"This is one of the first steps into identifying cholesterol as a potential biomarker for canine osteosarcoma...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," says Leeper.
In addition to providing insight into the veterinary significance of cholesterol's role in the disease and its progression, this study has also offered insight into osteosarcoma in general, which has applications for human medicine.
Future research efforts focused on lipid content in the blood could help researchers understand how and why cholesterol contributes to longer survival times for canine osteosarcoma patients, according to Leeper.
The study was published in the "Journal of Small Animal Practice" and you can check it out here.
What do you think of this new research? Let us know in the comments section below!
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