Despite recent genetic advances and numerous ongoing therapeutic trials, malignant melanoma remains fatal, and prognostic factors as well as more efficient treatments are needed. The development of such research strongly depends on the availability of appropriate models recapitulating all the features of human melanoma. The concept of comparative oncology, with the use of spontaneous canine models has recently acquired a unique value as a translational model. Canine malignant melanomas are naturally occurring cancers presenting striking homologies with human melanomas. As for many other cancers, dogs present surprising breed predispositions and higher frequency of certain subtypes per breed. Oral melanomas, which are much more frequent and highly severe in dogs and cutaneous melanomas with severe digital forms or uveal subtypes are subtypes presenting relevant homologies with their human counterparts, thus constituting close models for these human melanoma subtypes. This review addresses how canine and human melanoma subtypes compare based on their epidemiological, clinical, histological, and genetic characteristics, and how comparative oncology approaches can provide insights into rare and poorly characterized melanoma subtypes in humans that are frequent and breed-specific in dogs. We propose canine malignant melanomas as models for rare non-UV-induced human melanomas, especially mucosal melanomas. Naturally affected dogs offer the opportunity to decipher the genetics at both germline and somatic levels and to explore therapeutic options, with the dog entering preclinical trials as human patients, benefiting both dogs and humans.
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