Dairy cattle advance breast cancer research

By Peter Kent

Research to prevent cancer is coming out of the barnyard. Breast cancer is all too common among the human population, but similar cancers are exceedingly rare in cattle, according to Steve Ellis, Clemson assistant professor in animal and veterinary sciences.

“Many mammary cancer cases in cattle wouldn’t be widely reported, but in clinical terms mammary cancer in cattle is almost unheard of,” said Ellis. “There are only a few dozen cases of bovine mammary cancer reported in the global scientific literature since 1902.”
Whether the resistance to breast cancer among cattle is genetic or a side-benefit from the way that cattle digest fibrous feeds is unknown. However, understanding the physiology of breast cancer resistance in cattle could provide critical knowledge on the prevention of breast cancer in humans.

Ellis and his co-workers are studying the biology of mammary growth in cattle to improve profitability for dairy farmers. Their work could impact human breast cancer research as well. 

For information: Steve Ellis, 864-656-6969, ellis@clemson.edu