Shaun Singer and Dr. Stephanie Culler are a husband-and-wife team who have been finding unique ways to research cancer. Culler is the founder of Persephone Biosciences, and Singer is the director of the “Poop for the Cure” project. For years, the duo has collected fecal samples to study cancer in humans.
However, they recently learned that human cancer isn’t very different from cancer in dogs. After some investigation, they realized that dog poop could further their research too. So, they’re paying dog parents for canine feces, and it could eventually lead to a cure for cancer!
How Can Dog Poop Cure Cancer?
Experts can tell a lot about cancer by looking at poop. By examining the poop of patients with and without cancer, they can discover which microbes lead to effective treatments. As it turns out, dog poop can uncover many similar things.
“Turns out dogs actually have more than 60% in common in their microbiome to us. They live in our environment. Some of them eat the same food. They drink the same water,” said Dr. Culler. “We’ve now realized dogs have cancer at the same rates that humans do. And we can potentially understand cancer in dogs to better our treatments in humans.”
So, Culler and Singer have been collecting poop from healthy dogs and dogs with cancer to learn about treating cancer in dogs and humans. They especially need samples from canines with cancer since those are harder to come by.
The Search for Poop
The couple has set up booths outside dog parks to gather more stool samples. They recently spent time at Nate’s Point Dog Park in San Diego, where there’s an excess of pet waste. Most dog parents were happy to hand over the poop instead of throwing it away.
Culler and Singer put each bag of poop into a cold container for preservation. Then, they have the humans fill out some paperwork about their dog’s medical history. Each person who donates poop gets $5 for their time.
It might seem like a gross way to do research, but it could eventually save lives. Scientists are determined to find a cure for cancer, which means finding research in any place possible. So, Culler and Singer will continue to travel around gathering dog poop samples to find ways to advance cancer research. They will also keep gathering human samples as well.
“The last four years through campaigns like ‘Poop for the Cure’ we’ve collected 1,000s of stool samples from cancer patients and healthy patients nationwide,” said Dr. Culler. “We are able to really understand which microbes in our microbiome impact treatment response.”