Can you help Police K9/SAR Dog Robin?

ROBIN IS THE FIRST GOLDEN RETRIEVER IN HISTORY to win the American Kennel Club Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) in Law Enforcement [2009]. This is an incredible feat and we are so proud that Mary MacQueen and her Golden Robin are the recipients. We came to know about Mary’s exceptional work in 2002 when she shared the story of Golden Working Dog-in-Training Buddy, and continue to be amazed by her strong work ethic. We initially blogged about Robin a little over a year ago.

Robin also is the recipient of the 2010 Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) Gold Standard Award. This award is presented to honor a Golden who performs honorable, heroic acts or who enriches, inspires or contributes to the lives of individuals and communities.

Eight-year-old Golden Retriever Robin (Am-Can Ch. Nitro’s Boy Wonder SDHF BISS TDI CGC, Police K-9/Search and Rescue Dog) and Mary MacQueen have worked for the Salamanca Police Department, the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, and assist with searches for the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force in Western New York State. In 2009 alone, Robin had been responsible for getting about half a million dollars worth of dangerous narcotics off the streets.

Robin and Mary’s work with the Cattaraugus County, NY Sheriff’s Office included jail & vehicle searches, school searches, and searches during community festivals. Robin, the second narcotics certified K-9 in Cattaraugus County, is their first to be allowed to search people/students due to his easy going temperament and passive “sit” alert when he locates drugs.

Mary MacQueen and Robin also assist with searches for the Southern Tier Regional Drug task force and Kinzua Search Dogs, a non-profit, all volunteer group that endeavors to locate missing persons. Based in southwestern New York, Kinzua Search Dogs conducts searches in New York State as well as Pennsylvania.

Robin and Mary were recipients of the 2008 Police Officer of the Year award for the Salamanca Police Department. In addition to his work in law enforcement, Robin is also a therapy dog, AKC Canine Good Citizen, AKC Champion of Record, and the recipient of the Golden Retriever Club of America’s Show Dog Hall of Fame title.

When Robin’s busy schedule allows, he also leads local parades, visits hospitals and nursing homes, and makes trips to schools to educate students about the dangers of drug abuse. They say during community events and fundraisers that he can often be seen carrying a donation basket or lunch box filled with candy for the kids.

On October 18, 2010 we received a very sad email from Mary about her special boy Robin, his being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer on October 15th, two days after his eighth birthday.

Needless to say, I am still reeling from this horrible news. I have our first Oncology appointment on Wednesday at 11AM at Cornell University. They said it is an all day appointment filled with blood work, scans, ultrasounds, and x-rays. The original mass removal was done by my vet, but the histopathology was done at Cornell, so there was probably little room for error in the diagnosis which was Cutaneous Epithelialtropic Lymphoma. They said it was in the early stages for this aggressive form of cancer, so we are confident that this is the ONE special dog who will beat this disease!

While there is never a good time to get a cancer diagnosis, the situation has been compounded by Mary and Robin being laid off from the Salamanca Police Department on Oct 11th due to the Seneca Casino/NY state disputes.

Robin’s medical bills are not covered by his police department, and the treatment will be both extensive and expensive. Please help us save this dog who has given so much of his life for his community. Make a tax-deductible donation today …. designating it solely for Robin’s care. The money will be directly applied to his care at Cornell University


And, please spread the word by having folks come to


Golden Retriever Foundation Partners with Morris Animal Foundation

The Golden Retriever Foundation and Morris Animal Foundation  have teamed up to announce a new major canine cancer study titled Discovery and Characterization of Heritable and Somatic Cancer Mutations in Golden Retrievers, or the MADGiC Project (Making Advanced Discoveries in Golden Cancers).

This is a three-year, $1 million project slated to start in the summer of 2010. This jointly funded project is part of Morris Animal Foundation’s Canine Cancer Campaign, a worldwide effort to prevent, treat and, ultimately, cure this disease in dogs. Learn more at

The study will be led by premier canine cancer researchers Jaime Modiano, VMD, PhD, at the University of Minnesota; Matthew Breen, PhD, at North Carolina State University; and Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, PhD, at the Broad Institute of MIT and Uppsala University, Sweden.  They will work together to investigate mutations that are involved in risk and progression of the two most common cancers affecting Golden Retrievers, hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma.  This research will be of interest to all dog owners because these cancers affect every breed and cause the deaths of tens of thousands of dogs each year.

It is expected that this research may directly benefit humans too, because the genes involved in cancer are sometimes the same in dogs as in people, although these mutations can be more difficult to discover in people.  Therefore, identifying these genes may also advance scientists’ understanding of common human cancers such as lymphoma.

In addition, researchers will seek to identify genes that predispose some dogs to cancer so that breeders may someday be able to reduce cancer risk through breeding selection.  DNA tests may also be used for diagnosis and possibly to guide treatment choices in the future.  The scientists will also investigate mutations that occur in the tumors themselves and will profile the susceptibility of specific tumor types to various chemotherapy compounds, which may lead to improved therapy options.

Owners of Golden Retrievers diagnosed with lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma can support this research by donating a small tumor and/or blood sample; blood samples from healthy Goldens over 12 years of age are also needed.  More information about sample donation can be found at,, or contact Rhonda Hovan at or 330-668-0044.

About The Golden Retriever Foundation

About Morris Animal Foundation

Comparative Veterinary Oncology: Studying Canine Cancers = New Cancer Treatments for both Humans & Dogs

Our Golden Oliver led the way when our site came online in 1997. And, his valiant struggle and loss to lymphoma helped us channel our efforts in more healthful and holistic ways. Yet, even with reduced vaccinations, filtered water, a chemically-clean environment, organic foods, and more, we did not escape a fibrosarcoma diagnosis with our Golden Darcy in 2005.

An Alarming Rate
One in three persons as well as companion animals are developing cancer, an alarming six million dogs annually diagnosed with a spontaneous, naturally occurring cancer. And, over 45% of dogs older than 10 years of age are dying of the disease, as cancer is the leading cause of death in this age group. Cases continue to increase, a recent study indicating that 63% of Goldens will die of cancer. It is believed that the next breakthrough will be in the form of targeted therapy, such as molecular targeted therapy or gene therapy.

Disease Trumps Species: Winning the War by 2015?
The National Cancer Institute Director issued a challenge to cancer researchers to “eliminate the suffering and death caused by cancer by 2015.” Our dogs may be critical to making that a reality. Humans and dogs have been partners for thousands of years, our canine friends quite active in the fight against cancer.

While researchers have a greater understanding of cancer biology, their artificially induced cancers in rodents have not afforded them with much success in human trials.

Yet, as Dr. David Waters, Co-director of the Purdue Comparative Oncology Program indicates, dogs and humans are the only two species that develop lethal prostate cancers. And, the breast cancer that affects dogs spreads to bones, just as it does in women. Further, osteosarcoma, which is the most frequent bone cancer of dogs, presents in the same way as it does for our teenagers. In fact, under a microscope, cancer cells from a teenager with osteosarcoma are indistinguishable from a Golden Retriever’s bone cancer cells.

According to researcher, Dr. Melissa Paoloni, this sharing of genetic signature has been the genomic proof of principle that the Comparative Oncology Program researchers have been seeking.

Comparative Oncology Findings
Researchers have discovered a genetic cancer link between dogs and humans. Jaime Modiano, V.M.D., Ph.D., University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and Cancer Center, and Matthew Breen, Ph.D., North Carolina State University’s Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research, collaborated on this research study. Their findings are published in the journal Chromosome Research, in a special March 2008 edition on comparative cytogenetics and genomics research.

Drs. Modiano and Breen have found that humans and dogs share the same genetic basis for certain types of cancer. Furthermore, the researchers say that because of the way the genomes have evolved, getting cancer may be inevitable for some humans and dogs.

“Many forms of human cancer are associated with specific alterations to the number or structure of chromosomes and the genes they contain,” Breen said. “We have developed reagents to show that the same applies to dog cancers, and that the specific genome reorganization which occurs in comparable human and canine cancers shares a common basis.” More specifically, Breen and Modiano found that the genetic changes that occur in dogs diagnosed with certain cancers of the blood and bone marrow, including chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), are virtually identical to genetic abnormalities in humans diagnosed with the same cancers.

“Interestingly, we found that the same translocation of chromosomes happens in dogs as in humans for the three blood and bone marrow cancers we studied,” Modiano said. Breen and Modiano conclude that despite millions of years of divergence, the evolving genomes of dogs and humans seem to have retained the mechanism associated with cancer, and that the conserved changes in the genomes have similar consequences in dogs and humans. The next step for Breen and Modiano is to use grants received from the National Cancer Institute to start pinpointing risk factors for cancer in various breeds of dogs.

Spontaneous Mammary Intraepithelial Lesions in Dogs—A Model of Breast Cancer was published November 2007 in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. Purdue University research reveals that pre-malignant mammary lesions in dogs and humans display many of the same characteristics, a discovery that could lead to better understanding of breast cancer progression and prevention for both people and companion animals. The similarity between canine and human lesions associated with breast cancer makes dogs an ideal model to study progression of the disease while it is still treatable.

The main form of treatment of breast cancer tumors has been surgical removal. Researchers, Mohammed and Miller, would like to find out if there is a way to identify the lesion early with noninvasive screening, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging. “Once a lesion is identified, it can be treated with hormonal therapy if it is estrogen receptor (ER)-positive, but for low-risk and ER-negative lesions, we can’t do anything but wait and watch to see if it grows into a tumor,” Mohammed said. “With a dog model, we could study these lesions and test different prevention modalities before it becomes a cancer.”

Click here for our foundation’s comprehensive materials on canine cancer.

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A very sad day . . . Dog Loving Senator Ted Kennedy has died.

I hear that the Obama family fell in love with Senator Kennedy’s Porties, so inspiring their bringing Bo into the family. I got to meet two of Senator Kennedy’s dogs three years ago during a second tour at the White House with my Senate pal, Patty Kennedy. I had originally visited the US Senate in 2000, helping Patty with the publicity of her incredible book, Bailey Bymyside: Golden Lessons for Life (to see some of the lessons from the book, click here).

Senator Kennedy’s dogs were being walked by staff members as he was, of course, busy doing the people’s work. I was told that the Senator brought his dog to work about once a week. And, he brought a tennis racket as well so that he could hit balls for his dog to retrieve and bring back to him.

In the May 2006 Boston Globe Interview, Making a Splash, reporter Susan Milligan speaks to folks not really knowing Ted Kennedy, despite 40 years in the Senate and speeches galore. For, it was when you could catch him playing fetch with his dogs that one could really see him come alive. How disappointing it was that I was not able to see him do just that with his dogs.

Follow the senior senator from Massachusetts, known for beating up tobacco lobbyists and conservative Supreme Court nominees, into his Capitol Hill office – the inner office, the one decorated with a framed, handwritten note from John F. Kennedy as a child, with pictures of Edward M. Kennedy standing alongside Martin Luther King and past presidents – and he quickly morphs into 8-year-old Teddy Kennedy. “Do you know how much I missed you? Do you KNOW how much I missed you?” Kennedy coos at Splash, his Portuguese water dog who has been awaiting his owner’s return from a Senate committee hearing. Kennedy bounces a tennis ball, sending the large, curly-haired canine running around the bustling office before settling comfortably next to the senator.

It was endearing to hear him interrupt the interview to ask Susan if she wanted to see a trick. But, as we all know, our dogs do not always perform on command.

Splash, Susan would like to see the ball, if you would show it to her. Can you show me the ball? Will you show me the ball? Splash. Please. SPLASH. Will you show me the ball? Come on, come on, show me the ball. Thank you. You know I want that ball, and you know I want that ball now. SPLASH. Please. Now you know I want that ball, and you’re not going to give the ball to me? Come on, come on. Look. Show it to ME. Where are you going with that ball? Why are you teasing me? You know I want that ball more than anything in the world. Well, I guess you won’t let me see it.

In the February 2006 Washingtonian article, Love Your Pet: A Senator’s Dogs, you can see how lucky the Senator’s dogs, Sunny and Splash, are.

Senator Ted Kennedy’s dogs, Sunny and Splash, have quite a life. They wander the halls of Congress most days, spend summers on Cape Cod, and play ball with one of the country’s most powerful senators.

The Portuguese water dogs each have their own talents: Splash is the faster runner, while Sunny, pictured here, is a stronger swimmer. “She can stay in the water longer than you can walk,” the senator says.

The dogs often can be found under the senator’s desk. Sunny mainly sleeps, although both dogs have been present at many important meetings. “Splash sat through the markup for the No Child Left Behind bill,” Kennedy says.

Splash, the older of the two, has achieved some fame of his own. He won Best in Show at a Virginia dog show.

The 2006 book, My Senator And Me: A Dog’s Eye View Of Washington, D.C., is a lovely children’s book that highlights his guy, Ch. Amigo’s Seventh Wave (nicknamed Splash). One gets to follow Senator Kennedy and Splash through a busy day in D.C., from press conferences to meetings with school groups to committee discussions to a floor vote.

Kennedy’s introduction to the political process is clear, informative, and loaded with child appeal, in part due to his choice of Splash as the fun and furry narrator.

The Whole Furry Family

The Whole Furry Family

I was happy to know that the good Senator was enjoying his last months by immersing himself in what he loved best — being by or on the water . . . with his beloved dogs by his side.

I only worry about how Splash and Sunny will handle his absence, as us dog lovers do understand that dogs go through a grieving process as well.

Honestly, it is hard to believe that we will no longer hear that recognizable New England voice, speaking out for one and all. . . . “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die”

Dr. Bauer’s Biological Trojan Horse – A Great New Cancer Treatment

In the Greek tale of the Trojan horse, soldiers hid inside a large wooden horse, which was then placed outside the walls of Troy. Thinking it a gift, the citizens wheeled the horse inside the city. Once inside, the soldiers sneaked out and overtook the city. Think of that same strategy in terms of battling cancer. What if something could hide until it has made its way deep inside a tumor, then suddenly become active and kill off all the cancer cells from the inside out? This Trojan horse anecdote is one that cancer research scientist Joseph Bauer, Ph.D. uses to illustrate how his approach to chemotherapy works.

While in graduate school and reading a biochemistry book about vitamin B-12, it hit him. Why not get the vitamin to secretly carry a deadly chemotherapy agent into the tumor? Dr. Bauer’s invention uses B-12 to deliver the anticancer drug, nitric oxide, to the tumor. Cancer cells love B-12, actually having receptors to draw it into the tumor. They are completely fooled because they have no idea that a deadly agent lurks inside. “The nitric oxide that’s released inside the tumor cell has a half-life outside the cell on the order of milliseconds. It doesn’t have time to kill the surrounding cells, so it just kills the tumor cell,” Dr. Bauer explains. “Then, with the cancer cells dead and the nitric oxide no longer active, the vitamin B-12 can get out into the blood stream and help the body heal.”

Dr. Bauer’s “biological Trojan Horse” may be one of the best things to happen in cancer research in recent years. Preliminary National Cancer Institute testing noted its anti-cancer effects, showing inhibition of the growth of human tumor cells on 60 different types of cancer. This vitamin B-12 based compound, nitrosylcobalamin (NO-Cbl), preferentially targets cancer cells with minimal side effects to normal cells. Learn more here.


Tales of the ‘Trojan horse drug’ and the ‘miracle dogs’
American Chemical Society Press Release

SALT LAKE CITY, March 23, 2009 — Diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of cancer called anal sac adenocarcinoma, Oscar’s future seemed bleak. Bedridden and unresponsive to chemotherapy or radiation, he would be lucky to survive three months. But thanks to an innovative new drug treatment, Oscar’s cancer receded and he was walking again within two weeks.

Oscar’s recovery was extraordinary enough, but his case was unusual for another reason. Oscar is a Bichon Frise, who scientists reporting here today at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society call “the Miracle Dog.” Joseph A. Bauer, Ph.D., and colleagues described promising results with a drug called nitrosylcobalamin (NO-Cbl) in battling cancer in Oscar and three other canines without any negative side effects. While it gives profound hope to dog owners, NO-Cbl also points to a powerful new cancer treatment for humans — one that infiltrates cancer cells like a biological Trojan horse.

“We are one of the few research groups that is offering to treat dogs with cancer that otherwise have no hope,” Bauer said. “With no other options available, most people in this situation opt to euthanize so that their pets don’t go through the pain of disease and trauma of surgery.”

About six million dogs are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), pets with cancer provide a win-win opportunity for cancer researchers. Scientists can study new cancer treatments in animals other than lab mice. And pets get access to new treatments that provide hope and in instances like NO-Cbl, additional time.

Bauer put it this way: “The beauty of using a dog or a cat to test a cancer drug is two-fold. First, the animal can get the benefit of the most up-to-date drug in cancer medicine. Second, the NCI gets data on pets that are exposed to the same environmental factors their owners are. They breathe the same polluted air and drink the same polluted water that you and I do every day. If you can find an agent to treat cancer that occurs in a dog with success, there is a higher likelihood that you can take that to the human population and have a much higher response rate than with mice.”

Although NO-Cbl has been used in only a few dogs, daily treatments have led to promising results in each case. “In all four dogs, there has been a significant reduction in tumor size without any toxic side effects or discomfort,” says Bauer.

Oscar was the first success story. Since then, Bauer has treated two other dogs. A six-year old golden retriever named Buddy was unable to walk due to a spinal tumor pinching essential nerves leading to his right hind leg. After nine months of daily NO-Cbl treatment, Buddy’s tumor shrank by 40 percent and he was going on two mile walks. A 13-year-old female Giant Schnauzer with inoperable thyroid carcinoma also showed tumor reductions of 77 percent in less than 10 weeks.

“Our case studies demonstrate anti-tumor efficacy with limited toxicity to normal tissues,” Bauer added. “NO-Cbl sensitizes multidrug-resistant cancer cells to the antitumor effects of several different drugs, so it may be valuable when utilized in combination regimes,” he added.

The drug targets cancer cells with “biological Trojan horse technology.” Cells have receptors for vitamin B12 on their outer surface. The receptors serve as docking ports where molecules of the vitamin, essential for cells to divide and multiply, attach and then enter the cell. In order to divide at their abnormally rapid pace, cancer cells grow extra B12 receptors — 100 times more than normal cancer cells. Scientists have been trying since the 1950s to exploit that vulnerability and make B12-based drugs that attach to the receptors, sneak into the cell, and deliver a knock-out dose of medication.

Bauer and his colleagues from the Cleveland Clinic attached nitric oxide (NO) molecules to vitamin B12. NO kills cancer cells. The B12 acts as the Trojan horse, easily slipping into cancer cells. The subsequent release of toxic NO kills the cancer cells from within.

The team’s goal is to successfully treat 10 dogs with NO-Cbl and slingshot the drug into human use as soon as possible. Because of the genetic similarity between dogs and humans, Bauer says his approach should have a much better chance of getting through the FDA’s strict drug approval chain.

But Bauer stresses he wants to get the NO-Cbl dog treatment approved, as well. “I’m committed to the animals, and my goal would be to do a dual clinical trial, Phase One human and Phase One dog,” says Bauer.

Oscar is still alive and well. Today, Bauer is treating another Golden Retriever named Haley with a spinal tumor.

“This is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life,” says Bauer, the owner of a two-year old Beagle. “It gets boring working in the lab, but to see the fruits of your labor in a positive outcome like this and to know you’re responsible in some small way, that’s pretty cool.”

The Bauer Research Foundation was established to promote the drug discovery work of Joseph A. Bauer, Ph.D. Their mission is to promote and provide ethical and equitable therapies to fight cancer in animals.

Currently, the Bauer Research Foundation is working with local veterinarians as well as veterinary offices in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to treat dogs and cats with a vitamin B12-based chemotherapy agent, nitrosylcobalamin (a non-toxic drug, patented in 1999). Animals will be accrued (informed consent) through the offices of local veterinarians and animal hospitals. Eligibility requirements include 1) Animals must have a reasonable performance status (can walk and eat on their own), 2) No prior anti-tumor therapy is preferred but animals with a minimum of 6 weeks since last treatment may be considered, 3) Tumor size of 7 cm diameter or less is preferred, 4) Tissue biopsy is required to establish the diagnosis, 5) Eligibility decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Once eligibility requirements are met baseline imaging (MRI preferred) will be performed. The animal’s veterinarian will demonstrate, to the owners, the technique for subcutaneous (under the skin) injection. This allows the owner to administer NO-Cbl to their dog on a daily basis in the comfort of their own home. Monthly blood draws will be taken at the veterinary office to ensure the health and safety of the patient and to monitor for any signs of toxicity. The blood draws will analyze basic blood chemistries including liver enzymes, GGT, and BUN, creatinine (to assess kidney function), serum nitrate, serum B12, and complete red blood cell and white blood cell count, including differential counts. If the drug is well-tolerated after three months, with the consent of the veterinarian, the blood draws can be limited to every other month. A follow-up MRI will be required every 6 months.

From Ken & Marti Johnson of Akron, OH, here is the story of Golden Retriever Buddy. He is definitely a wonderful success story as a result of receiving this cancer targeting therapy.

Buddy – Meet Dr. Bauer!

Buddy now enjoys his daily walks, almost limp-free, and constantly retrieves silly things, as only a Golden can. We would never have got to where we are, had it not been for Dr. Bauer’s care and persistence. His research means the world to us; we only hope expanded use of this therapy will lead to even greater results, and not just for the canine community.

A visit to the Pittsburgh clinic on Feb. 27, 2009 confirmed that the tumor has shrunk again, now having shrunk by 70% of what it was when the treatment began.

Buddy showed no ill effects from the drug; his activity and appetite were unaffected, and we slowly but surely noticed a change in his general demeanor. His limp got slightly less pronounced over the first few months, and his movement in general seemed more like the ‘old’ Buddy. He also seemed to be pain-free. As the months went by, these changes became even more pronounced. A follow-up MRI in August of 2008 brought some wonderful news: his tumor had shrunk by about 40%. Our enthusiasm was matched by Dr. Bauer’s: we continued with the drug regimen, which continues to this day.

When our normally bouncy Golden Retriever, Buddy, began balking every time I tried to take him for his daily walk back in the late spring of 2007, I thought it was time to call in the ‘dog whisperer’. What had been one of his favorite activities to that point became an effort in futility. He’d just stop a few steps into the walk, plop on his hind end, look up at me, as if to say, ‘It wouldn’t be prudent to continue, not at this juncture’.

At that time, he seemed to be showing no other signs of physical discomfort, but to be on the safe side, we took him to our family vet, hoping for a simple explanation of what might be going on. Nothing was evident, and when Buddy then began to develop a slight limp in his right front leg, our vet suggested some X-rays. These also proved negative, but then during a follow-up exam, a point of tenderness was found deep in Buddy’s shoulder. An MRI was suggested, and a trip to PetsDX in Pittsburgh ensued. The results were devastating to us: a large tumor was discovered, and Buddy was given little chance to survive beyond six months or so.

We brought him home, realizing by now the cause of his reluctance to walking all this time, and tried to keep his environment as comfortable and safe as possible. He showed few other effects of the tumor, other than the pronounced limp which by now had gotten significantly worse. His love for people, however, was unaffected, and that’s when fate intervened. One afternoon, a normal ‘potty’ break outside was interrupted when Buddy suddenly spotted a familiar face down the street, one of our neighbors enjoying a walk with her two dogs. He limped on down to say hello, as only he can, setting in motion a chain of events which has brought us to where we are now.

Naturally, a conversation ensued, and Buddy’s health became the primary topic. The neighbor, Kari Bauer, mentioned that her brother, Dr. Joe Bauer, was engaged in canine research specifically related to carcinomas, and might be able to help us.

From that point on, Buddy’s world, and our world, changed dramatically. After reviewing the X-rays and MRI results, Dr. Bauer concluded that Buddy would be a good candidate for his current research, and the drug therapy associated with it. We got Buddy started almost immediately, and with a little help from our vet, learned how to administer Buddy’s twice-daily injections prescribed by Dr. Bauer of nitrosylcobalamin (NO-Cbl) based on vitamin B12, in February of 2008.

Pet Owner’s Guide to Cancer: Cornell Video Series

The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Partners in Animal Health, in partnership with The Cornell Feline Health Center, has created a wonderful video series Guide to Cancer.  The authors are: Margaret McEntee, DVM, DACVIM, DACVR(Radiation Oncology), Dennis Bailey, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), and Jodi Korich, DVM.

Vodpod videos no longer available.What is Cancer?
Vodpod videos no longer available.Why Do Pets Get Cancer?
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Early Detection

Vodpod videos no longer available.Diagnosing Cancer
Vodpod videos no longer available.Making Treatment Decisions
Vodpod videos no longer available.Mandy’s Chemotherapy
Vodpod videos no longer available.Triton’s Radiation Therapy
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Sending healing thoughts for Tucker

Meet Golden Retriever Tucker, a handsome dude indeed. His mom, Jess, has been a frequent visitor to our blog here, and she has always found joy in my writings and photos. Well, now, she is incredibly worried about her 9-year-old sweetie as he has been having repeated attacks that are related to a recent discovery of tumors. Right now the doctors are not sure how serious they are, but he is having surgery Monday morning.

Here is what Jess wrote to me recently:

It has been a rough few months, as he has been having “episodes” since mid-April. He has had 4 of them altogether, each one worse than the last. Each episode lasts 24-36 hours, and he suddenly becomes completely lethargic, won’t move, won’t eat or drink, won’t go outside, or anything. This last episode happened two weeks ago, and it was the worst one yet. We were getting ready to leave for vacation in a couple days, and he got really bad. It always starts at night, around 9-10 PM, and we end up laying on the floor next to him all night, not sleeping at all. It’s heartbreaking to see him like that, though the vet assures us that he’s not in pain when it happens … just very weak and lethargic.

The vet is hypothesizing that the episodes are caused by the splenic tumor bleeding into Tucker’s abdomen, and basically sending him into shock. It’s heartbreaking to think about. The vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him, and finally ended up doing x-rays last week. That’s when they found the masses in his spleen and lung. Our vet seems somewhat optimistic that they may be benign (and that the two masses may not even have anything to do with each other), though we’re trying not to get our hopes up.

We have definitely been spoiling him all week and will especially do it now until Monday. He is the love of our lives, and we are having extreme difficulty thinking about adjusting to life without him one of these days. We have had him since he was 6 weeks old, and he will be 9 in September. I will definitely let you know how the surgery goes on Monday and also the pathology results once we get those. Thank you again for your kind thoughts and support.

Is this a face, or what?

JULY 15 UPDATE: Tucker is out of surgery and will soon be going home to be loved on by mom and dad. To keep up with his progress, check out his new blog.

Cancer Machine Potential reminds me of ‘Bones’ from Star Trek

If you missed this from 60 Minutes on Sunday, you must check out this story. I always marveled at how Dr. McCoy (Bones), on Star Trek, seemed able to wave a small receiver over a patient and provide medical treatment. That is what this machine reminds me of. How wonderful if it actually will be able to work on both 4-legged and 2-legged folks.

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“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

See July 25 update here


Randy Pausch, the writer of the quote above in the title of this post, has just had his book published, The Last Lecture.

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave–“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”–wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

You can also learn more about this inspirational man by clicking here.

And, for Randy’s own personal day-to-day updates click here.

Below, you can actually experience Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch giving his now famous last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.


d1.jpgI just love acronyms and found much learning power in them when teaching graduate psychology and education courses. And, when such mnemonics are paired with sensible and helpful insights, it becomes a win-win for us all. So, I created this most important mneumoic for all my fellow dog lovers.

Please pass this on to all your canine friends, clicking here to print out a handy Taking a Bite out of Cancer sheet! Also, please visit our Canine Cancer Seeking Out Support (SOS) pages by clicking here.


Taking a BITE Out of Cancer

Take control of the situation by arming yourself with the most up to date information you can. Ask for printed materials or information from the professionals you meet. Obtain resources to help you understand your dog’s specific disease and treatment options. And, finally work together with your dog’s health care team so that you understand the reliability and validity of all the information you’ve gathered.

Assemble a team of compassionate, and trusted specialists. This may include: a conventional veterinarian, a certified veterinary oncologist, a certified radiation oncologist, and/or a holistic veterinarian certified in areas such as homeopathy, nutrition, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage therapy. Do not be afraid to get a second opinion before selecting your best course of action.

Keep a running record from day one, writing everything down in a specially designated notebook on: treatments utilized, medications along with your dog’s response, progress on combating treatment side effects, supplements that are added, and changes in habits and behaviors. Write down any questions you may have before each visit is made to your dog’s doctor. Take notes during discussions with your dog’s specialists. And, don’t be embarrassed to repeat information back to ensure that you truly understand what was said.

Incorporate good nutrition and a homemade cancer diet as this will play an integral role in your dog’s survival. Organic ingredients are the best! Use supplements to boost the immune system or address adverse treatment effects. Also, introduce changes to diet or supplements slowly in order to be sure that its effect is a positive, rather than stressful or compromising, one.

Neutralize the hazardous effects of our chemically-laden environment. Use only filtered water. Do not use any chemical agents to clean your carpets, floors or surfaces. Only use vinegar, mild soap, and water. Do not use any pesticides on the lawn or in the house. Also, do not expose your dog to environmental toxins or second-hand smoke.

Gather strength from your family and friends. Bring a partner or friend with you when you talk to specialists involved in your dog’s care. And, make sure that all discussions that you have involves everyone who loves your dog, including family members and children. Guarantee an acceptance of what is shared so that everyone feels comfortable in asking questions and expressing their feelings and opinions.

Anticipate that there will be many ups and downs during this new chapter in your life. Plan for emergencies by keeping an assortment of medications on hand and having various mobility aids available (e.g., Bottoms Up Leash, Folding Pet Ramp, Pet Stairs).

Be kind and gentle and compassionate to yourself. Know that you are doing the best you can do, and that your dog knows that. Let go of judgment about what you can and cannot do. Your dog will be okay either way. Simply forgive yourself, love yourself, and care for yourself.

Insure the integrity of your dog’s physical body and immune system. That means, absolutely no vaccinations or caustic flea applications! And, protect your dog’s lymph nodes by using an Easy Walk Harness which places no strain on a dog’s body. Only use a light-weighted collar for ID purposes, having it hang slightly from the neck, rather than being tightly affixed around it.

Take comfort in knowing that here are no incorrect decisions. And, do not worry about what others may think about your treatment choices. Just trust in your judgment, knowing that you are the only person who fully understands your dog’s emotional, social, and physical being. With all your knowledge in hand, you need only listen to your heart in order to make the right decisions.

Embrace life. It is a precious gift. And, be sure to remember this. Every day is a good day that allows you and your furry love to remain together.


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In Loving Memory of Cody

Karie recently sent this story with me, in loving memory of her Cody, wanting to learn by sharing and caring about how cancer affects us all.


Our Cody passed away August 25th, 2007. He was only 9 ½-years-old. In May he had a low-grade malignant soft tissue sarcoma, Hemangiopericytoma surgically removed from his neck and we were told that it was completely removed. We continued to check for any new topical tumors (photographed). The veterinarian would aspirate all the lipomas that we would find.

In August we found another red mass behind his right ear and our veterinarian removed it and said it did not look malignant. After the surgery, Cody was tired and just seemed sad. Cody developed a bacterial infection at the excision site and was not eating, but would if hand fed. We were sent home with medications for a hot spot.

Cody tried to go for walks and eat but had to be carried home. He would not leave us in the kitchen and we cooked his favorites. Cody looked at us with “Help me eyes” and then had a seizure and collapsed, returned in panic to the vet. This time x-rays and blood work showed us an enlarged heart, possible ruptured spleen and low anemia.

We rushed to the Emergency Vet hospital. The emergency veterinarian said they tried to stabilize his heart and drain fluids, but he was not responding to CPR. Cody died due to pericardial effusion, ruptured Neoplasia (hemangiosarcoma or chemodectoma).

Our poor Cody. Unknowing to us, a tumor had spread into his heart. We requested cremation and left in tears. Shocked as parents, there was nothing we could do.


Cody loved walks with Cheetah, baths, and lots of love. He gave years of service as a Pet Therapy Dog in nursing hospitals and a newspaper printed photos of him working.

Cody loved to wiggle his butt when you called him Boogedy-Boogedy. This was the sweetest dog to everyone. Our family is deeply sorrowed and will miss him always!

Click here to learn more about Hemangiopericytomas.

Golden Retriever Learning of the Day: August 23rd


Ever wonder about pain management for our furkids to handle post-surgical pain? I know it is an area that has evolved slowly and one that we must be diligent about with respect to having our companion animals get the most humane and intelligent care. Check out this article from a registered vet tech, and her great links to a 4-part article by Robert Stein, DVM AAPM.

There’s new research done in Chicago that’s taking pet therapy to a whole new level. Check out this video. (I could only get this work in Internet Explorer.)

Just in case you wondered why pesticide exposure is such a serious topic for both people and their dogs.

Read and watch a report on dogs shedding new light on cancer genes in humans

Meet Golden Bailey and learn how her mom’s site is making locating lost pets less hairy.

The Golden Grahamtastic Connection

I recently learned (from special Golden pal Suzan Morris) about Leslie Morissette and her wonderful nonprofit organization, Grahamtastic Connection. It had special meaning for me since my own post graduate research work involved pediatric oncology patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Through her group, Leslie offers free computers and Internet access to children with cancer and other serious illnesses for educational purposes. Nine years ago, her 8-year-old son, Graham, died from Leukemia, so this unique organization is actually keeping his memory alive.

There is a special Golden connection to this tale as well.

Leslie Morissette’s golden retriever slowly rises from a curled position near her desk, tag wagging and eyes shining as he greets a visitor. After successfully securing a proper welcome — thanks to a full back petting and scratching behind both ears — he ambles back to his spot on the floor to watch Morissette as she begins to discuss her son, the dog’s first owner.

Morissette’s eyes are similar to her best friend, bright when she discusses her youngest born, but soon turning glassy as the conversation turns to how his life was cut short. It was 1997 when Graham had begged for a dog as a Christmas gift — aptly naming it “Finally” — when the puppy finally arrived.

Four days later, on Christmas Eve, Graham lost his battle with leukemia.

On this video you will see Leslie speaking about this wonderful organization and also see her son’s Golden, which he named Finally. Graham wanted a dog his entire life. He was very special as Leslie notes:

If it wasn’t for Finally, I’m sure I couldn’t have gotten through difficult days I faced. The reason Graham wanted a Golden is because on Wednesday night at Maine Medical Center they had Dog Night, and he had a special connection to the Golden therapy dogs that visited him. Hewould ask the volunteer (and dog) if they would come back to his room afterthey visited all the children so he could spend more time with them. Of course, they always did 🙂

Shortly before Christmas I asked Graham what he wanted this year and he replied “I want a Golden Retriever puppy. Can’t a boy ask for one Christmas gift?” He only had his puppy for four days, but it turned out to be a gift for me as well.

Please think about visiting the Grahamtastic Connection and making a donation. They can always benefit from your check, but also can let you know how laptops can be donated as well. They are truly making a difference.

Morissette said she also makes a point to visit the children who are benefiting from her organization, even if that means it brings back memories of the 18 months she spent in the hospital with Graham.

Sitting at her desk at Marian Heath, where she serves as art director, with Finally at her feet, she said the Grahamtastic Connection is simply one small thing to help families get through a difficult time in dealing with a child’s illness.”Right now, I feel like a good fairy,” Morissette said. “How can I help but not do this program — I get more rewards than I give. We’re not working towards a cure. What we are offering is a better quality of life for them.”

Golden mix Abby’s cancer


Vet hospital touts progress
CSU expertise increases with growth of discipline

By SARA REED and V. Richard Haro (photos), The Fort Collins Coloradoan

Frank Profaizer. left, of Cheyenne, Wyo., discusses Abby’s cancer with Dr. Susan Plaza, middle, clinical trials coordinator at Colorado State University’s Veterinarian Teaching Hospital, as Dr. Kate Vickery, right, a resident oncologist, measures Abby’s lymph node. Abby is an 11-year-old golden retriever/chow mix that has been coming to CSU for about five years for treatment for lymphoma.


Dr. Kate Vickery measures Abby’s lymph node.

Since its birth, the college has grown into a center of nationally and internationally renowned research in areas such as animal reproduction, cancer and radiological biology and infectious diseases, forging ahead in research that could help save lives and change the world.

The college, which is consistently ranked in the top two colleges of its kind, spent more money on research last year than any other similar college, said Dr. Lance Perryman, dean of the college. The $54 million spent on research last school year accounted for 20 percent of CSU’s total research expenditures.

Research within the college has produced treatment techniques that increase the survival rate of children who suffer from osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer; identified estrogen receptors in the brain as a factor in anxiety and depression; and identified a possible link between protein buildup in the brain and Alzheimer’s.

‘Something priceless’

For all the global implications of the research coming out of the college, some of it hits close to home. Abby, a 10-year-old golden retriever/chow mix that has battled lymphoma for five years, is one of the many animals and humans who have benefited or figure to benefit from research coming out of the college.

Abby is on her third clinical trial as part of her treatment at the Animal Cancer Center. Her owner, Frank Profaizer, said he and his family are so grateful to the doctors and other employees at the center.

The Profaizer family, who lives in Cheyenne, sometimes brings Abby to Fort Collins daily. They’ve given us something priceless,” he said. “They gave us five more years with her. We couldn’t have gotten through this without the (vet teaching hospital).”

The trials Abby has gone through, which include a chemotherapy and nutritional supplement study, can help develop treatments for people and other animals living with cancer. Profaizer said he thinks Abby was put here to be studied and be of service to others.

“The bottom line is that if they can learn (from her) and help another dog or a human, that fulfills her purpose here,” Profaizer said.

Shh! Can you hear cancer?

Shh! Can you hear cancer?

Doctors looking to see if cancer has spread may be able to one day simply listen for it, US researchers report. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia say they have used a technique called photoacoustic detection to pick up the characteristic vibrations of melanoma cells in the blood.

They say their method could let oncologists spot as few as 10 cancer cells in a blood sample, catching a tumour’s spread before it can settle into another organ.

Writing in the October issue of the journal Optics Letters, the researchers say they combined laser techniques from the field of optics and ultrasound techniques from acoustics. They used a laser to make cells vibrate and then picked up the characteristic sound of melanoma cells.

The researchers say they were able to detect melanoma cells obtained from actual patients.

The dark, microscopic granules of melanin in the melanoma cancer cells absorb the energy bursts from the blue laser light. As the melanoma cells expand and contract, they generate crackling sounds that can be picked them up with special microphones and analysed by computer.

Other human cells do not contain pigments with the same colour as melanin, so the melanin signature is easy to tell apart from other noises, says Assistant Professor John Viator, a biomedical engineer who worked on the study. “The only reason there could be melanin in the human blood is that there would be melanoma cells,” he says.

A blood screening test could reassure patients who have a growth removed, or tell a doctor to start chemotherapy quickly because the cancer has already started to spread. “It could take just 30 minutes to find out if there are any circulating cancer cells,” Viator says.

There’s more . . .

Golden Retriever Comet saved by $45,000 Bone Marrow Transplant for Lymphoma

Believe it or not, the cure for Comet’s cancer involved dog lovers in five states and four countries. And, it is a perfect illustration of what comparative oncology is all about.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has performed hundreds of experimental bone-marrow or stem-cell transplants on dogs over the past 40 years. The perfection of these procedures and techniques are now used worldwide to treat cancer in about 40,000 people each year.

“The early research that led to successful bone-marrow transplantation in humans was based on research conducted on dogs with cancer. For this we can thank man’s best friend for contributing to a legacy that has saved … thousands of people around the world,” Dr. Rainer Storb, who participated in the research, said in a statement.

Learn more in the articles below. You can learn more about this procedure and its successes at Suzi Beber’s Smiling Blue Skies.

Dog Saved by Bone: £30K Marrow Transplant Op for Cancer Pet
Exclusive by Lucy Laing and Dennis Ellam

WHEN Comet the golden retriever was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, his vet said there was only one solution – give the dog a bone marrow transplant. And the way his tail wags now, it seems Comet knows he is a medical marvel. His life was saved by a £30,000 stem cell transplant, the first of its kind performed on a canine. And the result has been spectacular. The eight-year-old golden retriever has finally been declared free of the cancer that almost killed him.

Comet was stricken with lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the immune system, and chemotherapy was no longer holding the disease at bay. He was given just a few months to live, as no dog had ever survived for more than a year after being diagnosed with lymphoma. “We watched our Comet become so ill,” said owner Nina Hallett, 68, who moved from London to Seattle 40 years ago. “One night I heard the back door creak open and I found him digging a hole under a bush – he was trying to crawl away to die.”

Comet’s vet Dr Edmund Sullivan decided that a transplant was his one final, albeit slim, hope. Nina and her lawyer husband Darrell, 63, seized it. They abandoned plans for a new kitchen and put the money towards their pet’s surgery instead – a staggering £30,000.

“We knew this kind of transplant had never been done before on a dog with his condition, but we also knew it was his one and only chance,” said Nina. “So we never hesitated. It wasn’t even a close decision. Whatever it took to save him, we would do it.”

But first they had to find a suitable donor. The mammoth search involved dozens of dogs and their owners across five states of America, and abroad.

There’s more . . .

But, first, here is an unbelievable article from a couple years back at the beginning of the ordeal . . .



What price a pet’s life? $45,000 to treat Comet
By Warren King, Seattle Times medical reporter

Comet is like many golden retrievers: gentle, devoted, enthusiastically greeting each day with his wagging, plumed tail. He loves to swim, run in the woods and pack around his large toy hamburger. But Comet is different. He’s one of very few dogs worldwide to receive a stem-cell transplant for cancer treatment, rather than primarily for research. Cost of the therapy: $45,000.

The Bainbridge Island dog got the transplant last summer after developing lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph tissue. Now, after a long, steady recovery, he is showing signs of being cured. The effort to save Comet involved dozens of dog lovers in five states and four countries, a renowned explorer in Honduras and a pioneering cancer center in Seattle.

His owners never flinched at the cost.

There’s MUCH more . . . .

More about Golden Maggie

Therapy dog back on the job
Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.

Maggie’s back. After a bout with cancer, the 9-year-old golden retriever is again making her rounds as a therapy dog, visiting children at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester and older people in nursing homes in Northboro and Shrewsbury.


A couple of weeks ago I shared the above story about Maggie here at our blog. Well, today I have a GReat update. Maggie’s loving dad, Mike Kewley, just wrote the following to me:

I am glad you shared my story about my golden retriever called Maggie. I started Shrewsbury Paws in November of 2004 and Maggie has made a huge impact on the local community with ther therapy work.

She will never be cured and I enjoy everyday with her and try not in think about tomorrow. Please checkout the web site and the News Articles page showing how she has made everyone aware of the importance of therapy work.

Maggie has a sister, a 6-month-old golden who keeps her active, and Maggie is playing a big part in training her to carry out her legacy. Every volunteer and handler needs to be noticed for all of the work they do

Please do go visit Shrewsbury Paws for Patients and check out the wonderful news articles about Maggie, especially learning about her special relationship with Jay, a critically ill youngster with inoperable cancer.

The story of Maggie and Jay
Therapy dog and hospital’s sickest children share in cancer fight

By Megan Woolhouse,, September 17, 2006


It may bring tears to your eyes, as it certainly had that effect on me, but you must not miss out on The story of Maggie and Jay , a 14-large color photo slide presentation that is just incredible.

Five Years Later . . .


At my Foundation site I have been following the health issues of those 2-footed and 4-footed folks who worked at Ground Zero. There are 5 years of articles and information and the picture that is painted is not a happy one, even though they believe the dogs comparatively fared rather well.

You can learn more about the 5 year study at the website for 9-11 Search and Rescue Dog Medical Surveillance. Here is a recent article on the research work being done.

Studying Health Effects On 9/11 Rescue Dogs
By Teresa Garcia,ABC 7 News

The dust, smoke and chemicals contained in those huge billowing clouds following the 9/11 attacks caused massive breathing problems among the rescue workers who responded. But, only now are scientists beginning to look at the long term side-effects our four-legged rescuers may be facing.

Now a study is underway to get a look at the effects on dogs. MRIs used to only be available to humans. Now they’re available to pets too. Four dogs have come to Redwood City with handlers from around the U.S. to the Pet Imaging Center as part of a five-year study.

The four search and rescue dogs ranging from 7 to 11-years-old will get their own MRIs to check their health conditions.

There’s more ……

Be sure to also watch the video (in full screen format) by CLICKING HERE.

Update on Canine Lymphoma Screen


1 in 4 dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime and lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in dogs. To help in the fight against this terrible disease, PetScreen (a company in the UK) have developed the first ever cancer screen for canine lymphoma. If you missed the interview on radio KDKA Pittsburg with the UK’s Dr. Kevin Slater (company CEO), just CLICK HERE to hear it. It was really wonderful to hear more about how this technology has evolved.

The Lymphoma Screen has been available in the UK for 6 months now and is now being offered in the U.S. I have just spoken with Dr. Slater and will getting more details about costs soon. I am also scheduling Alfie for the test, the tiny 1ml blood sample to be retrieved in a couple of weeks when he goes in for surgery.

You can learn more about this fabulous procedure at the PetScreen website, which does a GReat job of explaining the procedures and the background history on the development of the incorporated technology.

Don’t Miss hearing Dr. Slater on 1st Ever Canine Lymphoma Screen

1 in 4 dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime and lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in dogs. To help in the fight against this terrible disease, PetScreen (a company in the UK) have developed the first ever cancer screen for canine lymphoma.

Tomorrow morning at 8am one of the developers of the screen, Dr. Kevin Slater, will be talking about the screening test on radio KDKA Pittsburg. The program is streamed on the web. Just CLICK HERE.

These programs are often recorded and then available during the week for folks that miss it.

The Lymphoma Screen has been available in the UK for 6 months now and is now being offered in the U.S. I will be speaking with Dr. Slater next week to get more details on costs and how it will work here in the U.S.

Golden Basil’s Cure — Hope for Many More


In Trials for New Cancer Drugs, Family Pets Are Benefiting, Too
By Andrew Pollack, The New York Times

This is Basil, with Alan P. Wilber, his owner, who was found to have bone cancer in 2001. Basil is cancer-free now, but had to have a leg removed.

Dogs have long been used for medical research, usually to the dismay of animal-rights activists. But now pet owners are enrolling their dogs in medical trials meant to benefit humans and animals alike. And some animal advocates are applauding the development.

Most of the trials, often sponsored by drug companies or medical device makers, involve pets with cancer — a leading natural cause of death in older dogs — in which the animals receive groundbreaking drugs or other treatments that are eventually meant for people.

The drug giant Pfizer has already introduced a human cancer drug that was given an early test in pet dogs, and a California company, IDM Pharma, recently filed for federal approval of another cancer drug that received similar testing.

Treating dogs gives researchers an idea of whether and how the treatment will work in people, while at the same time possibly helping the pets. “It can help in reshaping the image of animals in science, from being considered tools to being considered patients,” said Martin Stephens, the vice president for animal research issues at the Humane Society of the United States. “And we would love to see that change.”

The National Cancer Institute has set up a consortium of more than a dozen veterinary teaching hospitals to conduct the tests. The consortium has just completed its first study, with another to begin in a few weeks and several more planned for next year. Government and academic scientists are also now setting up a nonprofit group to study DNA and tumor samples from pet dogs, in an effort to pinpoint genes associated with cancer in both dogs and people. The government push is adding momentum to an approach in progress for several years among universities and medical centers that have been testing companies’ drugs and devices. Meanwhile, dogs whose owners enroll them in these trials often benefit from the best cancer treatments available.

Basil, a golden retriever, with Kathy Wilber, his owner

An exemplar of the trend is Basil, a 6-year-old golden retriever who sometimes wears a scarf reading “I’m a cancer survivor.” “They call him the miracle dog,” said Alan P. Wilber, a history teacher at a community college who, along with his wife, Kathy, lives with Basil in Los Banos, Calif.

Basil developed bone cancer in 2001. By the time the affected leg was amputated, the disease had spread to 11 sites in his lungs and was deemed beyond surgical hope. But the Wilbers enrolled Basil in a study of a drug developed by Sugen, a biotechnology company, being conducted at the University of California, Davis. Enough tumors disappeared so that the rest could be removed surgically, and Basil has been free of cancer for three and a half years.

There’s much more…….

Beating Cancer — Dogs Leading the Way for us all

Dogs May Help Find Genes That Cause Cancer
By Andrew Pollack, The New York Times

About half of all Bernese mountain dogs are prone to an unusual blood cancer called malignant histiocytosis. Boxers are four times more likely to get lymphomas than dogs in general, while Pomeranians are 10 times less likely. Cocker spaniels are more likely to get B cell lymphomas, and huskies are more susceptible to T cell lymphomas.

Such differences among breeds provide evidence that the risk of getting cancer is at least partly inherited. And they suggest that dogs could be useful in the search for genes that cause cancer, with the findings probably applicable to people, as well.

“The role of heritability is easier to track in dogs than in people,” said Jaime F. Modiano, a veterinarian and immunologist at the University of Colorado, who said it had been difficult to find many cancer-risk genes in people.

Dogs are ideal for such studies because there is relative genetic homogeneity in a breed. And it is possible to have five or six generations of dogs alive at the same time, providing ample genealogical information.

Dr. Modiano is one of about 15 academic and government scientists who are forming the Canine Comparative Oncology and Genomics Consortium, a nonprofit group, to look for cancer genes in dogs. The group is separate from the National Cancer Institute’s recently formed team of veterinary hospitals to test cancer drugs in dogs, although the two groups have members in common.

One goal of the new genetics organization is to assemble a collection of tumor samples and DNA from dogs to be used in studies.

Other necessary tools are also becoming available. The complete genome sequence of a dog — a boxer — was published last year.

Scientists led by Elaine A. Ostrander, now at the National Human Genome Research Institute, have already discovered a genetic mutation responsible for a rare syndrome that causes kidney cancer and skin nodules in German shepherds. The mutation was in a gene also involved in a similar rare human disease called Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome.

Hunts are going on now for other cancer-risk genes like the one for the cancer in Bernese mountain dogs and for bone cancer in Rottweilers.

There’s more…..

Golden Ben is a Lifesaver

Breast cancer led to self-discovery
By Patricia Norris, The Republican

GRANBY – Each night when Nancy A. Engelbrecht lay down to sleep, her lumbering golden retriever would drop his paw on her right breast. What’s the matter, Ben? Do you want to go out? But Ben would not stop.

“After about a month of this, I investigated. I was starting to feel sore there and that is when I found the lump,” she said.

Engelbrecht, a 44-year-old radiation therapist at the Sister Caritas Cancer Center at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, knew the warning signs of breast cancer.

Now she was living them. A biopsy confirmed Engelbrecht’s worst fear but it also led her on a fortuitous path of self-discovery and activism. Now Engelbrecht helps patients by sharing her experience and encourages others who are cancer-free to do self-breast exams as she believes Ben’s paw was prodding her to do all along.

“I don’t really care who knows I have cancer,” she said. The dog, one of Engelbrecht’s seven, stopped pawing at her once the lumpectomy removed her tumor.