Theranostics 2021; 11(8):3882-3897. doi:10.7150/thno.55760


Molecular targets for anticancer therapies in companion animals and humans: what can we learn from each other?

Irati Beltrán Hernández1,2*, Jannes Z. Kromhout2*, Erik Teske3, Wim E. Hennink1, Sebastiaan A. van Nimwegen3, Sabrina Oliveira1,2✉

1. Pharmaceutics, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, 3584 CG Utrecht, the Netherlands.
2. Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Biophysics, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, 3584 CH Utrecht, the Netherlands.
3. Department of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, 3584 CM Utrecht, the Netherlands.
*Equal contributions to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Beltrán Hernández I, Kromhout JZ, Teske E, Hennink WE, van Nimwegen SA, Oliveira S. Molecular targets for anticancer therapies in companion animals and humans: what can we learn from each other?. Theranostics 2021; 11(8):3882-3897. doi:10.7150/thno.55760. Available from

File import instruction


Despite clinical successes in the treatment of some early stage cancers, it is undeniable that novel and innovative approaches are needed to aid in the fight against cancer. Targeted therapies offer the desirable feature of tumor specificity while sparing healthy tissues, thereby minimizing side effects. However, the success rate of translation of these therapies from the preclinical setting to the clinic is dramatically low, highlighting an important point of necessary improvement in the drug development process in the oncology field. The practice of a comparative oncology approach can address some of the current issues, by introducing companion animals with spontaneous tumors in the linear drug development programs. In this way, animals from the veterinary clinic get access to novel/innovative therapies, otherwise inaccessible, while generating robust data to aid therapy refinement and increase translational success. In this review, we present an overview of targetable membrane proteins expressed in the most well-characterized canine and feline solid cancers, greatly resembling the counterpart human malignancies. We identified particular areas in which a closer collaboration between the human and veterinary clinic would benefit both human and veterinary patients. Considerations and challenges to implement comparative oncology in the development of anticancer targeted therapies are also discussed.

Keywords: targeted therapy, comparative oncology, companion animals, molecular targets