True Giants …. Curing humans & their animal companions

The Land of PureGold Foundation became a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit corporation in February 2005. The formation of our organization followed a period of 8 years that the had been a presence on the web, supporting and engaging in various charitable endeavors and providing numerous educational activities to promote the human-canine bond.

One of our goals is to raise monies for research in comparative oncology, which is the study of cancers that occur similarly in companion animals and humans. Another, is to support and disseminate information on canine cancers; and, to educate and promote interest in research of those cancers in companion animals that share a similarity to the cancers that afflict children.

Given the tough economic times and the limited resources of such a small non-profit, fundraising has been difficult. But, we decided to bite the bullet and provide $20,000 to Dr. Jaime Modiano for one of his exciting comparative oncology research projects. The funding went to Minnesota Medical Foundation’s Comparative Oncology Research Fund for the following:

PROJECT TITLE: Discovery and Characterization of Heritable and Somatic Cancer Mutations in Golden Retrievers (this project also involves Hemangiosarcoma)

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Dr. Jaime Modiano (Veterinary Clinical Sciences), Dr. Jim Cerhan (Mayo Clinic), Dr. Matthew Breen (North Carolina State University), Dr. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh (Broad Institute)

PROJECT GOALS: We propose to identify and characterize heritable (genetic) traits that contribute to risk and progression of hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers. This project is developed as a partnership between the GRF and the Investigators, Drs. Modiano, Breen and Lindblad-Toh. The goal to “make a major impact” carries some risk, but in this project, risk is mitigated by the financial commitment from the GRF and MAF, as well as by the investigators’ entrepreneurial spirit, the extensive preliminary data from their laboratories, and their collective expertise applying state-of-the-art genome-wide technologies to cancer investigation. Our long-term goals are (1) to institute simple, straightforward tests to allow assessment of the specific genetic risk carried by an individual dog and thereby to allow breeders to develop strategies that will slowly reduce the incidence of hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers, while retaining the positive phenotypes of the breed, and (2) to develop effective diagnostics, risk reduction, and treatment strategies for hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma that will benefit not only golden retrievers and other dogs, but also humans with these diseases.

Dr. Modiano is a true treasure. Our back-and-forth correspondences have exemplified both his wisdom and patience, prized traits for successful researchers such as himself. Dr. Modiano is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s V.M.D.-Ph.D. Program. Graduates with this or D.V.M.-Ph.D. degrees go on to careers in translational research, thus qualified to develop and do research in animal models, compare basic biology across animals, and translate research findings to different species including humans.

Jaime Modiano is one of the graduates who elected to focus on academic research. After completing the V.M.D.-Ph.D. program at Penn, Modiano went to Colorado State University for a residency in pathology. At the end of his residency, he realized that “you can’t go into science with just a Ph.D. and clinical training. I really needed to do a postdoc.” He joined the lab of Erwin Gelfand at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine (now National Jewish Health) to do research on T-cell activation, the subject of his Ph.D. research. He soon realized, however, that his residency training in pathology and his research interest in immunology didn’t mesh well professionally.

“My research in immunology was so disconnected from [my clinical work] that I had to make a choice because I wasn’t being excellent at either aspect of my career,” Modiano says. He decided to stick with research and joined the staff of the University of Colorado–affiliated AMC Cancer Research Center while serving as an associate professor of immunology at the School of Medicine of the University of Colorado, Denver. “It was kind of fun being at a medical school and known as the weird guy who worked with dogs,” says Modiano, who is now a professor of comparative oncology at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and the Masonic Cancer Center, where his research focuses on immunology, cancer cell biology, cancer genetics, and applications of gene therapy. …

Irrespective of the path that their careers have taken, D.V.M.-Ph.D.s have opportunities to make significant contributions to biomedical research, for the benefit of both humans and animals. This becomes apparent in diseases such as cancer: Dogs and cats suffer from naturally occurring cancers similar to human cancers. Unlike rodent models, which are developed from inbred strains of mice kept in controlled environments, companion animals, like humans, are genetically diverse and are exposed to many of the same environmental influences as their owners are. …

A critical barrier to using companion animals in preclinical research is organizing those studies. It’s a problem that Chand Khanna recognized when he arrived at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1997 to do a postdoc. “I came with the intent to study molecular biology techniques,” says Khanna, a D.V.M-Ph.D. who is now a senior scientist in NCI’s pediatric oncology branch. “But I also came with the veterinarian perspective, and as I talked to people, I realized there was an opportunity to answer questions in dogs with cancer that can’t be answered in either humans or mice. And that is critical for the development of new drugs.”

To that end, Khanna created the Comparative Oncology Program within NCI’s Center for Cancer Research. By linking together veterinary scientists at research centers across the country and in Canada, the studies completed through the program’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium provide valuable information needed to design human clinical trials.

Khanna believes companion animals will play an ever-increasing role in biomedical research on cancer and other diseases. As such, he believes there is an obvious role for dual-degree veterinarians. Penn’s Volk agrees: “For me and most of my colleagues, … we are thrilled to make a difference for our animal patients,” Volk says. “But really, there is an opportunity with appropriate animal models to make a huge difference for the human community as well.”


Dogs Really are Man’s Best Friend

I just discovered a marvelous article on canine genomics, its applications critical to both veterinary and human medicine.

In 2003, the US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) agreed to fund a project to sequence the entire genome of a boxer dog named Tasha. Although the USA is a country of dog lovers, with approximately 38 million households owning one or more dogs, why did one of the National Institutes of Health countenance the use of $30m for such a purpose? The answer is that the NHGRI recognised the value of the dog as an unrivaled model for the study of human disease. In this paper, the reasons why the dog is such a good model are examined. Examples of where the study of disease in dogs is increasing the understanding of the genetic basis of human disease, of the development of improved diagnostic assays and of the evaluation of clinical therapies are provided.

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Learn more about Comparative Canine Oncology here.

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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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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New Hemangiosarcoma Research

SAR Brady (certifications: NAPWDA Area Search, NASAR SAR TECH II, NASAR Canine SAR TECH II, Canine Good Citizen

This is Brady, one of the dogs that we are following and who has received a grant from our foundation to help with his hemangiosarcoma’s treatment costs.

A new study jointly conducted by Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute may one day help both canines and humans with this form of cancer.

Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Cancer Institute who discovered the targeted therapy drug Gleevec for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), is teaming up with OSU veterinary oncologist and researcher Stuart Helfand, D.V.M. Dr. Helfand was one of the first to discover abnormalities in hemangiosarcoma growth pathways similar to those responsible for CML in humans.

Hemangiosarcomas strike all dog breeds, but is more often noted in German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers. It is a rapidly growing, highly invasive cancer. Thanks to this grant, the Druker Laboratory is now studying a cell line developed in Helfand’s laboratory from a German Shepherd that died of this sarcoma. The researchers want to see what drugs can be developed to treat this disease. In turn, this research may ultimately benefit people with similar cancers.

NC State Univ is Making Man’s Best Friend Better

NC State Is First University in Nation to Offer Canine Bone Marrow Transplants (9-3-08 News Release)

Dogs suffering from lymphoma will be able to receive the same type of medical treatment as their human counterparts, as North Carolina State University becomes the first university in the nation to offer canine bone marrow transplants in a clinical setting.

Dr. Steven Suter, assistant professor of oncology in NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, received three leukophoresis machines donated by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Leukophoresis machines are designed to harvest healthy stem cells from cancer patients. The machines are used in conjunction with drug therapy to harvest stem cells that have left the patient’s bone marrow and entered the bloodstream. The harvested cancer-free cells are then reintroduced into the patient after total body radiation is used to kill residual cancer cells left in the body. This treatment is called peripheral blood stem cell transplantation.

The machines, once used for human patients, are suitable for canine use without modification, as bone marrow therapy protocols for people were originally developed using dogs.

“It’s not a new technology, it’s just a new application of an existing technology,” Suter says. “Doctors have been treating human patients with bone marrow transplantation for many years, and there have been canine patient transplants performed in a research setting for about 20 years, but it’s never been feasible as a standard therapy until now.”

Canine lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancer in dogs, but the survival rate with current treatments is extremely low. Peripheral blood stem cell transplantation, in conjunction with chemotherapy, has raised human survival rates considerably, and it is hoped that dogs will see the same benefits.

“We know that dogs who have received bone marrow transplants have a cure rate of at least 30 percent versus about 0 to 2 percent for dogs who don’t receive the transplants,” Suter adds. “The process itself is painless for dogs – the only thing they lose is a bit of body heat while the cells are being harvested.”

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Purdue research finds similarities in dog, human breast cancer pre-malignant lesions

Purdue research finds similarities in dog, human breast cancer pre-malignant lesions

Sulma Mohammed, associate professor of cancer biology in Purdue’s School of Veterinary Medicine is looking at tissue samples to find similarities between canine and human lesions associated with breast cancer. A Purdue study found that dogs make an ideal model to study progression of the disease while it is still treatable. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.- 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 people and pets, said a Purdue University scientist from the School of Veterinary Medicine.

A group of scientists including Sulma Mohammed have found similarities between benign lesions that are considered to carry risk for developing breast cancer in both canines and humans. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women.

“Dogs develop these lesions spontaneously in contrast to other available models and are exposed to the same environmental risk factors as humans,” said Mohammed, an associate professor in comparative pathobiology. “These shared features make the dog an ideal model to compare the breast lesions that will progress to cancer and those that will regress. Such a model will facilitate customized treatment and prevention strategies.”

Due to the success of mammographic screening and awareness by women, abnormal cell growth within breast tissues is frequently diagnosed, Mohammed said. These intraepithelial lesions are recognized risk factors for invasive cancer, and their presence affects patient management decisions.

“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.”

The research appears in this month’s issue of the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. Mohammed’s co-authors include Sunil Badve from Indiana University; Margaret (Peg) Miller, Jun Xie and Elisabetta Antuofermo from Purdue; and Salvatore Pirino from the Sassari University School of Veterinary Medicine in Sardinia, Italy.

The scientists studied 212 tissue biopsies from 200 female dogs with tumors that were retrieved from the archives of the Purdue Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and the Veterinary Teaching Hospital as well as from the Institute of General Pathology and Anatomical Pathology at Sassari University.

The canine slides were compared to human specimens collected from the Department of Pathology at the IU School of Medicine. Mohammed said the focus of the study was not on the tumor but on the precancerous, or preneoplasia, lesions in tissue around the tumor.

“We found that preneoplasia lesions are virtually identical, microscopically, in dogs and women,” she said. “In fact, many of the slides were so similar it was often difficult to determine if they were from dogs or people without looking at the label.”

In particular, Mohammed said, they wanted to examine each type of mammary intraepithelial lesion for estrogen receptors expression. Recently, scientists have concluded that breast cancer is not a single disease, but a group of malignancies.

“Establishing an animal model is paramount for testing new treatment and prevention modalities, especially for lesions that express none of the targeted receptors, such as triple-negative types, before human clinical trials,” Mohammed said.

The team determined that because of the frequency of lesions, their association with spontaneous mammary cancer and the resemblance to human lesions, dogs may be the ideal model to study human breast cancer progression as well as prevention and treatment. Mohammed emphasized that the research results would benefit both dogs and humans.

According to the American Cancer Society, 62,030 cases of precancerous malignant lesions and 178,480 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed. There will be 70,880 women who die from breast cancer this year.

Much of the difficulty in research on dogs with breast cancer is that the data is outdated, Mohammed said. According to a 1969 study of female dogs over 4 years old that were not spayed, one out of four were expected to develop mammary neoplasia, or abnormal cell growth that may progress to cancer. Thirty percent to 50 percent of canine mammary tumors were malignant, and 50 percent to 75 percent of these recurred or metastasized within one to two years.

“Women have become more aware and conscientious of conducting their own breast self-exams, and pet owners also are more aware to check their animals,” Mohammed said. “With better diagnostic tools and early detection, we are able to give dogs the same treatment that we give humans.”

Mohammed said the dogs provide a more realistic comparison to humans than the mice and rat models, in part because the tumors developed spontaneously, just as in humans. Dogs have been evaluated in a few studies, but rodent research is more common, she said.

“This is a very large, untapped resource for comparative oncology research,” Mohammed said. “Unlike laboratory rodents, dogs share a common environment with people and, therefore, may be exposed to some of the same carcinogens. Also, because dogs have a shorter life span than people, it is possible to study mammary lesions and invasive tumors that develop after a few years instead of decades.”

Miller, a veterinary pathologist in the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, said that mammary cancer in dogs is one of the most common forms of cancer studied at the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

“We already had hundreds of mammary tumor specimens archived in the diagnostic laboratory,” Miller said. “It’s a wonderful thing when we’re able to collaborate with other departments at Purdue and Indiana University with these specimens. There’s so much to be learned from these types of studies.”

Tissue samples are kept indefinitely at the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, but most of the samples in this study were less than a year old, she said. The records kept for each sample provide opportunities for follow up if necessary in future studies.

“Diseases such as this are important to a diagnostic laboratory,” Miller said. “Through diagnostic pathology, we gain knowledge that’s useful for veterinarians and animals, as well as collecting information that’s helpful for people.”

The main form of treatment of breast cancer tumors has been surgical removal. Both 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.

As a next step, Mohammed will determine the prevalence of lesions in dogs with no tumors. In addition, she and Miller are looking at cats, which have a 90 percent malignancy rate when they are diagnosed with breast cancer.

This research was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. Writer: Maggie Morris, (765) 494-2432,

Golden Retriever Callie trying to beat melanoma

At our foundation’s site, we have detailed where the fight is centered in the continuing fight to beat cancer for both our companion animals, and ourselves. One such treatment for melanoma involves that of vaccines which are showing incredible promise .

Check out this wonderful video that shows Golden Callie and a Pomeranian pal named Coco who are trying to beat this disease. Just click on the movie icon.

And, please realize that this vaccine is now being used in humans and is meeting with success. That is what comparative oncology research is all about.

UC Davis helping Golden Retriever Duffy Beat Cancer

(Golden enjoying Goldstock) Photo by Chris Solis

We just learned about a great video clip and article about Golden Duffy (h/t to Karen Jones, mom to Duffy’s sister Becky). Media can have difficulty with accuracy sometimes and Karen has informed me that Duffy’s mom is Mary Ann Peters, not Peterson.

Check out the great article and be sure to watch the video. Duffy is gorgeous and as seen carrying a woobie, looks like he is faring quite well.

Golden Retriever Learning of the Day: August 29th


Dogs with cancer may help take a bite out of human disease. Understanding the important of research in comparative oncology.

Meet 12-year-old Golden Alex, a hero of cancer research.

Dr. Patty Khuly has some great articles on the lowdown to how vets recommend pet food. Check out Part I: Industry and Part II: Education.

Comparative Oncology: A Win-Win for both Dogs and their People

Tucson dogs are helping in the search for a cancer cure. Dogs spontaneously suffer from the same cancer as their human family members and we are gaining much information from research with them, so benefiting both dogs and people.

Click here to learn more about the promise of vaccines for melanoma.

Our current food crisis — Seeing the bigger picture

It has been a very scary time these past few weeks as more and more dismal news presents itself regarding the pet food recall, the poisons detected, the implications for both the regulation of foods by the FDA for both human and animal consumption.

I came to better understand food ingredients when I woke up many years ago in distress and was subsequently found to have a level of antinuclear antibodies in my blood that was out of the stratosphere. I was allergic to almost everything and ingesting something with one of the dreaded ingredients could result in anaphylaxis. My biggest allergies were to those two substances most used in all of our processed foods, corn and soy.

I have come to understand much more about food, about our agriculture, about chemicals and pesticides, and so much more. And, it just scares me more and more. It is the reason that I emphasize the use of organics, for both ourselves and our animals. It is why I only use filtered water for myself and my animals.

Having lost two dogs to cancer, I decided to go with the best, something where I knew every ingredient to be organic and which was not processed at all. I have no fears any longer about quality and will never need to be concerned about contamination.

That is because I am using the organic pre-mix from CANINE LIFE which is actually milled in small batches in a kosher, human food facility. For those folks not familiar with the difference in kosher foods, let’s just say that achieving kosher certification is dependent on a level of Rabbinic supervision that is extraordinary. While having a kosher certification for a pre-mix is clearly not a necessity, it does make me that much more confident in the process with respect to what I am getting.

This organic pre-mix contains the most exemplary ingredients (Organic milled whole brown rice, Organic chick peas, Organic whole oats, calcium, carob, Acadian sea kelp, green tea, turmeric, oregano, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, ginger, and garlic). I add to it: organic egg, organic safflower oil, organic broccoli, organic red delicious apple, organic wild blueberries, organic thigh meat chicken, and 100%pure organic cranberry juice. It is combined and placed in muffin tins and minimally baked for 25 minutes.

When you are using quality ingredients, the new adage clearly becomes … less is more. There is no need for digestive enzymes, additional vitamins, or other boosters because all of those are provided in the pure ingredients that I am using. Because of the need for efa’s, I give a recommended 3000mg of wild salmon oil daily, but not baked into the food where it loses its value. I add it to the food after.


Sadly, much of what I keep harping on at our foundation site is ignored. I only carry items in our store with proteins that are organic or free range, chemical and antibiotic-free. Only those items that I allow in my animal companions’ mouths are featured. Period.

I only allow for items that have organic rather than non-organic vegetables. Unfortunately, people see little difference between the two, for themselves or for their dogs, so my orders are very few. But, if you read the following, maybe you will reconsider what you put into your mouth … or even that of your beloved animal companion.


Although higher costs are the initial objection to going organic, people are essentially unaware of the critical differences between organic & non-organic products. In a March 2006 article on produce losing vitamins and minerals over the past 50 years, agriculture and nutrition tradeoffs are detailed. “The fruits and vegetables that our parents ate when they were growing up were more nutritious than the ones we’ll serve our children tonight. As we have substituted chemical fertilizers, pesticides and monoculture farming for the natural cycling of nutrients and on-farm biodiversity, we have lessened the nutritional value of our produce.”

Non-organic fruits and vegetables are repeatedly sprayed and subjected to much pesticide. In fact, there are pesticides and chemical compounds commonly utilized to prolong shelf-life. When you eat non-organic sweet potatoes, you ingest the pesticide botran along with fungicides imazilil, benomyl, and thiabenzadole. These substances are cancer causing and sources of immune system damage. They cannot be removed by peeling and are used to allow longer shelf life, not fresher or safer food.

The shelf life for sweet potatoes, because of the application of these harmful chemicals, is a huge 36 months. That means, the potatoes you could be buying are not only questionable with respect to toxicity, they are also lower in nutrients due to the amount of time they may be waiting for distribution. Organic sweet potatoes, which do not utilize such pesticides or fungicides, have a shelf life of only 9 months. Organic fruits and vegetables have been shown to be higher in nutrients, and many studies have clearly proven the case for organics. Organic produce tastes better and reduces pesticide exposure. Organic produce contains 30% higher levels of antioxidants and organic farming can cut mycotoxin risk by over 50%. [Further discussion of mycotoxins can be found here.]

Non-organic chemical farming methods, which can speed up growth rates, cause structural changes to the plant─the plant then containing more water. That means the plant will contain less nutrients. In other words when you buy organic produce you get more potato for your potato. Organic plants also contain10-15% more phenolics, defense compounds believed to be helpful in preventing diseases such as cancer.

And, I extend this commitment to organic even with respect to the toys that I now advocate, as our dogs are always chewing or sucking on something. From the time they are pups, they, like babies, love to put things in their mouths. Sometimes it’s a dog toy—other times, it’s not! With our beloved companions munching away, we wondered, what exactly are they putting in their mouths? Is it safe and non-toxic? Even a non-toxic toy left us wondering, Do I want my dog chewing on toys that have PVC (polyvinyl chloride, a toxic chemical) in the plastic? Do I want him ingesting processed materials or those made using pesticides and growth hormones? Surely if we wanted the best for our dog, we wouldn’t want him putting these materials in his body.

According to 1995 data, for example, United States farmers applied nearly one-third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for every pound of cotton harvested. When all nineteen cotton-growing states are tallied, the crop accounts for 25% of all the pesticides used in the U.S. Some of these chemicals are among the most toxic classified by the U.S. EPA. In addition, cotton is often bleached white before it is dyed, and the carcinogen dioxin is produced during the process. Chemical dyes frequently include toxic heavy metals such as chrome, copper and zinc, and sometimes contain known or suspected carcinogens. Even natural dyes, because of their poor colorfastness, are often accompanied by heavy metals to fix the dyes.

But, don’t take my word for it. Read the following two articles from the esteemed Dr. Michael W. Fox about organic agriculture and also the current pet food recall being a sign of a genetic engineered food disaster.


Organic Agriculture: The First Medicine of Holistic Healing
By Michael W Fox D.Sc., Ph.D., Vet. Med., MRCVS

We human beings are surely at the time in our biological evolution when we must reflect upon the direction our lives and civilization have been taking and where we are going. We are at a crossroads, and we must choose which road to take, using common sense and compassion as guide and compass. The road to healing begins when we all feel deep concern for the suffering that surrounds and suffuses us all with the darkness of a dying planet. We have made the Earth so sick, and ourselves in the process, because we have lost touch with the sacred dimensions of reality, Nature, of wholeness, balance, harmony, health and spiritual well-being.

We are so spiritually disconnected that we find reason to put our own genes into pigs so that we can use their hearts and other organs to replace our own diseased hearts and other organs harmed by our excessive consumption of animals and pollution of the environment and our vital food chain.

We are so cognitively disconnected from reality that we spray poisonous chemicals on the crops we feed to our children and rationalize such stupidity as the best and most efficient way to feed a hungry world and even to protect wildlife and biodiversity.

We are so emotionally disconnected from other animals that for economic reasons we justify incarcerating livestock in the cruel, intensive confinement systems of factory farming, and accept the suffering of other animals in vivisection laboratories in the name of medical progress. To question this pathology of anthropocentrism is not to put animals or Nature before people, but rather to demand a full ethical and economic accounting of those activities, values and policies that are harmful to the life community.

We think we are wise to take selenium, zinc, beta carotenoids, lysine, omega 3 fatty acid, vitamin E and C and other essential vitamins and trace mineral supplements. Because they are deficient in most of the foods we eat that do not come from certified organic farming systems, the produce from which have no such serious deficiencies.

But this taking of nutritional supplements/nutraceuticals, is not real healing. It is yet another quick “fix” that the American Medical Association tried to monopolize and obliterate in 1995, for the pharmaceutical industry. Organic farming is the ultimate antidote and first medicine since, unlike conventional chemical-based agriculture, it does not deplete soils and crops, and farmed animals and us, of these essential elements. But the herbal and mineral medicines of indigenous peoples and wisdom of midwives and shamans, like that of organic farmers, are threatened by expropriation, and will soon be subject to corporate exploitation and abuse.

A few years ago I was scheduled to give a major address on animal rights, agriculture and human well being at the University of Rochester, in Minnesota, home of the famed Mayo Hospital. Interestingly no bookstore in the city had any of my books for sale, that had been requested by the graduate student organizers prior to my lecture. They were embarrassed and angry, and told me that it was the doing of the “Mayo people.” State livestock and agribusiness interests were also involved. This alliance is now beginning to break apart as study after study shows the health benefits and economic savings of humane and sustainable organic agriculture, and doctors—as well as veterinarians—are advocating the adoption of organically raised, whole (unrefined, unadulterated, and un-processed), foods.

Like the good holistic healer, the organic farmer treats the soil with the same reverential respect and nurturing compassionate understanding as the good veterinarian treats animals. But as the power of pesticides has replaced the wisdom of the farmer, so over-the-counter drugs, computers and gene-jockeys have replaced the eyes of a good stockman and the services of the livestock veterinarian. All these substitutions are costly inputs that have a multiplier effect that undermines the economic sustainability of farming enterprises that are being sacrificed as the off-farm sector of agribusiness reaps more profits from their products and services.

When industry and corporate America adopt the principles of bioethical responsibility, as exemplified by farmers who follow the ethics and scientific principles of humane, sustainable organic agriculture, and consumers and legislators support them exclusively and “eat with conscience,” we will experience such healing that we will soon need no dietary supplements, like zinc and calcium, or vitamins C and E. We will have fewer cancers, heart attacks, osteoporosis, arthritis, allergies, food poisonings, babies with birth defects and children with neurological, cognitive and emotional disorders. And fewer obese cats and dogs that develop cancer, arthritis, chronic skin, liver, kidney, endocrine, immune system and a host of other diseases, many of which can be alleviated and prevented with better nutrition and purer foods.

We won’t need to make animals suffer in laboratories to find cures for these diseases of Western civilization: Or need pigs as organ donors. Nor will we need to legitimize the creation of transgenic animals that carry and suffer our genetic disorders to serve as profitable models for developing new drugs to treat the myriad diseases we have brought upon ourselves from cancer and chemo-sensitivity to immuno-suppression and auto-immune diseases. The replacement of animal-based foods with plant-based foods could result in an 80-90 percent reduction in cancer, according to Colin Campbell, Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. A vegetarian diet is the best way for people to beat the obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart attack epidemic that is sweeping across the consumptive West to other counties that adopt the Western diet and methods of industrial agriculture. Grass fed, organic, and free range animal produce, from beef and chicken to eggs and cheese, are more nutritious, and ethically more acceptable than the produce from animals incarcerated in cruel, and environmentally harmful factory feedlots and confinement sheds. That some large corporations have co-opted the organic label for animal produce that comes from animals kept in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is a significant concern. A cardinal principle of organic animal agriculture is animals’ behavioral freedom and related ecological role in farming sustainably. This means that for dairy products to qualify as organic, simply feeding the cows organic feed and restricting the use of various drugs are insufficient criteria. The cows must have access to pasture and play an integral role most of the year in the ecology and economy of bioregionally appropriate farming systems. These criteria clearly make the ‘organic’ claims of mega, 2,000-10,000 dairy cowherds, patently false. CAFOs are anathema to organic farming.

Several studies have shown that organic farming practices are good for wildlife, and help in the recovery of regional biodiversity.

When some problem arises, as in our own health or in the health of our animals or the productivity of our crops and livestock, our perceptions are so limited and our motivation so often self-serving that we seek simple solutions — stronger antibiotics and other drugs and vaccines, or genetically engineered, disease resistant seeds and stock — rather than correcting the underlying systemic causes. The expediency of simple solutions, often touted as miracles of scientific progress, serve the short-term, profit-oriented interests of the industrial system. The core systemic dysfunctions and causal agents are not addressed, only the symptoms being treated. Bad medicine and bad farming practices go hand in hand. Like holistic medicine, organic farming is systemically integrated within the physical parameters of general systems theory and quantum mechanics as they relate to dynamic living ecosystems, with the overlays of ethics, esthetics, and metaphysics.

The pathogenic status quo maintained by the food and drug mafia is for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many. That is why my books in Rochester MN were seen as a threat to the establishment which, because of its complexity of interdependent vested interests, is slow to change and to ever reach a consensus that could lead to reforms. But this status-quo is crumbling, however, as people change their diets, rather than taking drugs to lower their cholesterol levels, farmers turn to biological or natural methods of pest control, and human and non-human doctors adopt a more holistic approach to disease treatment and prevention for their patients..

Collectively, we fear to embrace uncertainty and seek control, instead of understanding complexity. We have no conception or resonant heart for concord and harmony with the life community. We slaughter dolphins, wolves, trees, and still even each other.

Our choice is either to extinguish this way of life or to extinguish all life that has no utility, no commercial value.

The less we cause animals to suffer, the less we will suffer. The less we harm Nature – the “environment” – the less we will harm ourselves, because, we and all life are connected ecologically, physically, psychologically and spiritually.

That most human diseases have a spiritual aspect has been long recognized by traditional healers. Conventional medicine does not address the spiritual, emotional, attitudinal, socio-ecological and economic dimensions of our dis-ease, or the many diseases of industrial civilization. It cannot be, so long as it is ideologically, economically and politically part of the industrial system that it serves and services. It is a medicine that cannot prevent disease or heal, even the rich who can afford its ever more costly interventions, so long as it can justify its Professors of Progress and Experimental Surgery, removing the hearts of baboons and replacing them with the hearts of genetically-humanized pigs to see how long they might live before the monkey’s immune systems predictably rejected these hearts. And when gene-juggling biotechnologists play god, putting insect toxin and herbicide resistant, antibiotic marker, and human antibody genes into new varieties of common food crops and then claim that these unique patented creations are ‘substantially equivalent’ to conventional crops, rather than biological aberrations.

What great step forward might such experiments on fellow creatures make for humanity? Is it not yet another backward step into the self-destructive morass of our once noble species turning into a global parasite, if not a plague on life more pernicious than AIDS? Such animal abuse and cruelty is endorsed by the Catholic Church,’ if it is justifiable in terms of definite benefit to humanity’. This human-centered world view is embraced by the ruling bio-technocracy of the industrialized Western and Northern hemispheres to sanctify the commodization of animals and the wholesale, commercialized rape of what is left of the natural world.

The Eastern and Southern hemispheres are ensnared by the same pre-Copernican anthropocentrism of industrial progress and economic growth that is to be attained regardless of the suffering of others, of the holocaust of the animal kingdom, the death of Nature, and the demise of indigenous peoples and their once sustainable methods of farming and way of life.

We cannot put our faith and hopes in scientific discoveries that eventually prove how important the micro-organisms in the soil are for our crops to be healthy and our food nutritious: Or in new breakthroughs in agricultural and medical biotechnology. At best, it will be too little, too late. More instrumental knowledge and technological advances will be to little avail if we do not shift the operational paradigm from anthropocentrism to a more reverential Earth or Creation-centered worldview. This is a systemic transformation that begins with increasing public and political support for humane, sustainable and organic farming practices, and with holistic and preventive health care maintenance.

We have yet to see that most of our diseases are not simply physical in nature, but also have a metaphorical aspect that has to do with our state of being and relationships with each other and with the Earth. The deterioration of our immune systems, for example, mirror social and emotional stress and also the deterioration of the environment, of community values, and of the economy. That more holistically-oriented physicians are at last beginning to recognize these connections is a clear sign that a paradigm shift or change in our worldview is taking place and that the status-quo of conventional medicine, agriculture, the economy, and other social institutions is no longer acceptable. As more medical and veterinary scientists are becoming real healers, so more farmers are becoming real land-stewards. Their paradigm is based upon the following bioethical principles: compassion, humility, ahimsa (avoiding causing harm), reverential respect for all life; social justice; eco-justice, and the precautionary principle. These are the cornerstones of a healthy community and of a sustainable economy.

Advances in the science and bioethics of alternative human and veterinary medicine and agriculture that are based on this new paradigm hold much promise and should be supported by the corporate sector as well as by academia, the public and their governments worldwide.

The death of Nature will mean the death of humanity, since our humanity is derivative of the natural world, and has no primacy either in origin or in significance. There is nothing miraculously different separating the existence of ants and earthworms from mice and men. All are different manifestations of being, of the life force. None is more significant, in itself, than any other in contributing to the diversity and dynamic harmony of the life process and community. It is from this perspective of a reverential respect for all life and for its community, that through communion, the time of healing and hallowing will begin. This is a spiritual and ethical imperative, and a survival necessity for the human species in these times and at this stage in our evolution toward a wiser and more responsible, empathic and compassionate life form.


LARGEST PET FOOD RECALL EVER – A Genetic Engineered Food Disaster?
By Michael W Fox D.Sc., Ph.D., Vet. Med., MRCVS, April 5, 2007

I have received several letters from dog and cat owners thanking me for ‘saving their animal’s lives’ because they were feeding them the kind of home-made diet that I have been advocating as a veterinarian for some years. These letters came after the largest pet food recall in the pet food industry’s history.

On March 23, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that rat poison in contaminated wheat gluten imported from China was responsible for the suffering and deaths of an as yet uncounted numbers of cats and dogs across North America. The poison is a chemical compound called aminopterin.

Veterinary toxicologists with the ASPCA and American College of Internal Veterinary Medicine shared my concern that there may be some other food contaminant (s) in addition to the aminopterin that was sickening and killing many pets. Experts were not convinced that the finding of rat poison contamination was the end of the story.

On March 30, the FDA reported finding a widely used compound called melamine (formed by dehydration of urea and used in the manufacture of plastics, as a wood resin adhesive, and in slow-release urea fertilizer), in the suspect pet foods. The FDA claims the melamine was the cause of an as yet uncounted number of cat and dog poisonings and deaths. The FDA could not find the rat poison, aminopterin, in the samples it analyzed; however a lab in Canada, at the University of Guelph, has confirmed the presence of rat poison. There may be other substances of a hazardous nature not yet discovered in these manufactured pet foods that include other ingredients considered unfit for human consumption, and from around the world.

The Associated Press cited the Environmental Protection Agency as having identified melamine as a contaminant and byproduct of several pesticides, including cryomazine. People began to question if there is also pesticide contamination of the wheat gluten. Is there a possibility of deliberate contamination, or is it the result of gross mismanagement and lack of effective food-safety and quality controls that accounts for levels of melamine reported to be as high as 6.6% by the FDA in samples of the wheat gluten?

A brief internet search quickly reveals that the widely used insect growth regulator cryomazine is not only made from melamine, but it also breaks down into melamine after ingestion by an animal. Wheat gluten is wheat gluten, fit for human consumption, so the question remains, what was wrong with this gluten that it was only bought for use in pet food?

On April 3 Associated Press named the US importer as ChemNutra of Las Vegas, reporting that the company had recalled 873 tons of wheat gluten that had been shipped to three pet food makers and a single distributor who in turn supplies the pet food industry.

What of the uncounted number of people whose cats and dogs became sick, and even died? Several letters that I have received indicate costs of in the thousands of $ per animal; and what of long-term care costs for animals suffering from chronic kidney disease?

While Congressional hearings are now being called for by grieving pet owners, and class action suits put together, this debacle could have catastrophic consequences not only for conventional agribusiness, of which the pet food industry is a lucrative subsidiary, but also for the agricultural biotechnology industry, with its millions of acres of genetically engineered crops around the world.

I reach this conclusion, until there is evidence to the contrary, for the following reasons:

1. The wheat gluten imported from China was not for human consumption, because, I believe, it had been genetically engineered. The FDA has a wholly cavalier attitude toward feeding animals such ‘frankenfoods’ but places some restrictions when human consumption is involved (yet refuses appropriate food labeling).

2. The ‘rat poison’ aminopterin is used in molecular biology as an anti-metabolite, folate antagonist, and in genetic engineering biotechnology as a genetic marker. This could account for its presence in this imported wheat gluten.

3. The ‘plastic’, ‘wood preservative’, contaminant melamine, the parent chemical for a potent insecticide cyromazine, could well have been manufactured WITHIN the wheat plants themselves as a genetically engineered pesticide. This is much like the Bt. insecticidal poison present in most US commodity crops that go into animal feed.

4.So called ‘overexpression’ can occur when spliced genes that synthesize such chemicals become hyperactive inside the plant and result in potentially toxic plant tissues, lethal not just to meal worms and other crop pests, but to cats, dogs, birds, butterflies and other wildlife; and to their creators. (For details, see my book Killer Foods: What Scientists Do to Make Food Better is Not Always Best. Lyon’s Press, 2004).

How else can one account for samples of pet food containing as much as 6% melamine? It was surely not mixed in such amounts when the wheat gluten was being processed, but rather was already in the wheat, along with the aminopterin genetic marker. My suspicion is that the FDA was aware that the gluten came from genetically engineered wheat that was considered safe for animal consumption.

I could be wrong. But a greater wrong is surely for the pet food industry to use food ingredients and food and beverage industry by-products considered unfit for human consumption; to continue to do business without any adequate government oversight and inspection; and for government to give greater priority to agricultural biotechnology and the patenting of genetically engineered crops and animals, and not to organic, humane, ecologically sound and safe food production.

I believe that there is evidence of gross negligence, not simply on the part of the pet food industry, but by all who are responsible for food quality and safety in the global market that is clearly dysfunctional. The Pet Food Institute should start an emergency fund to compensate all veterinary expenses incurred as a result of this—and any future—mass poisonings of people’s beloved animal companions.

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.

Insights Into Osteosarcoma In Cats And Dogs May Improve Palliative Care

Insights Into Osteosarcoma In Cats And Dogs May Improve Palliative Care

Science Daily — Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that a molecular pathway known to have a role in the progression of bone cancer in humans is also critical to the pathology of skeletal tumors in dogs and cats. Their work could lead to advances in the palliative care of companion animals afflicted with osteosarcoma.

The research team, which included U. of I. pathobiology professor Anne Barger, examined the homeostatic role of an enzyme, receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B (known as RANK), and two key modulators of its activity: RANK ligand (RANK-L) and osteoprotegrin (OPG). RANK is one of a family of receptors that regulates bone and immune homeostasis. In health, RANK, RANK-L and OPG together keep the continual process of bone growth and resorption in balance.

Bone tumors presumably derail this homeostatic process, however, by upregulating RANK-L expression. RANK-L binds to RANK, stimulating the production and activation of osteoclasts (bone cells that increase the breakdown of bone tissue).

OPG counter-regulates RANK-L by blocking its ability to bind to RANK.

Eventual therapeutic interventions may make use of OPG or other RANK-L inhibitors to slow the process of bone destruction in skeletal tumors in cats and dogs, Barger said. Although not a cure, this could reduce the pain and other complications associated with bone cancer. Such therapies have proven effective at reducing pathologic bone loss in human bone cancer patients.

The researchers are the first to verify that the expression of this protein, which worsens the effects of bone cancer in humans, also occurs in cats and dogs with skeletal tumors. Their study appears in the January-February issue of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

“Osteosarcoma is much more common in veterinary medicine than in human medicine,” Barger said. “And in dogs it is fairly common.” Other studies have reported a tenfold greater incidence of bone cancer in dogs than in humans.

“Owners often make decisions to euthanize based on pain,” Barger said. “If we can lessen the pain associated with the tumor we can improve the quality of life and the lifespan.”

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 . . . .

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.

First I cried … and then I got mad


For some weeks now, I have attempted to draw attention to a powerful story that not only recognizes the importance of canines in our lives, but draws attention to the current real life effects of a seemingly never ending war. Unfortunately, the solitary newspaper article in the San Antonio Express-News (noted below) failed to be picked up by any other news organizations or, more importantly, any local Texas TV stations. And, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Yet I know that without such coverage, there is absolutely no chance for folks to even become aware of the story.

To spur tax-deductible donations for HARLEY, the Land of PureGold Foundation has offered Ollie Plush Pups for donations of $50 or more. Yet, so many have turned down receiving this gift, instead wanting these pups presented to the soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center. We have begun sending pups to Andrea for this purpose, and will also be donating several more pups so that they can be given to soldiers as a memento from Harley.

This is the letter I just received that made me break down….

Hi Rochelle,
I wanted to thank you for the plush golden retriever, it is beautiful and I will always cherish it.

Harley is doing fine. He is still weak in his back legs due to the medication he is on. We have not been able to visit for the past few weeks. I did go today by myself so I could give a plush Golden Retriever that Lauren from San Antonio donated specifically for a soldier at BAMC.


I gave the pup to soldier named Frank. He was injured in Iraq a few days before Thanksgiving. His vehicle was hit by an explosive and he lost both of his legs. He is a remarkable young man. I told him about Harley and about the donation. He was genuinely touched. To see the smile on his face that this gift brought was priceless. He held the pup and I asked him if I could take a picture to share with your website and was happy to agree. Along with the pup I gave him a card with Harley’s paw print which said “Get well soon, Love Harley”.


If anyone has any media contacts or ideas about how the local folks in Texas or even National media can learn about this story, please do try to make something happen for this guy, shown here with Andrea.

The following letter is what I have sent out to the media. Anyone wanting to make further contacts can extract any or all of the information.

A recent article in the San Antonio Express-News detailed a very special boy who has been cheering up wounded Iraq soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center, despite the diagnosis of a brain tumor.

The Land of PureGold Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization, has set up the Helping Harley Fund ( ), but attention to it has been very slight despite the news article and the foundation’s best efforts. I feel this inspiring story desperately needs television exposure in order for it to make a difference.

A recent article in the December 2006 issue of Scientific American ( Cancer Clues from Pet Dogs: Studies of pet dogs with cancer can offer unique help in the fight against human malignancies while also improving care for man’s best friend) details the importance of cancer treatment for our canines and how comparative oncology (study of cancers that occur similarly in humans and companion animals) is an important key for all of us, 2 or 4-footed.

The Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, who provided cutting age therapy for Harley, are among the top veterinary oncologists in the country, also offering very valuable clinical trials as part of a network of National Institutes of Health researchers.

Although Harley’s tale may seem to be merely a human interest story about a ailing Therapy Dog, it is truly so much more. For it can bring attention to some information that is valuable to all as statistics currently indicate that one in three persons, as well as small companion animals, will be diagnosed with cancer. It also details how some very special people, no matter the adversity, are trying to do their part to help assist our returning wounded soldiers.



Care is an elixir for dog with tumor
By Rose Mary Budge, San Antonio Express-News Staff Writer

It’s past midnight when Andrea Hanssen finally dozes off, exhausted after studying for her nursing board exams. Then Harley starts to bark. Instantly awake, she hurries to his side and starts dispensing her special brand of medicine. “I tell him Mama’s here and everything is going to be all right,” Hanssen says.

Harley, Hanssen’s 11-year-old golden retriever and hospital-visitation partner, needs extra encouragement and TLC these days. The things he used to do so easily — romping, jumping up on the couch, going for walks with his owner — are harder now and, occasionally, it’s tough for his weakened back legs to get traction on the tile or wooden floor.

“He can’t quite figure out what’s going on,” Hanssen says, “and that’s why I think he gets a little anxious at night and barks. I give him Valium to calm him if it’s really needed. But mostly I just stroke those wonderful golden ears and lie down by his side until he goes to sleep with his head between his paws.”

Harley has a brain tumor — cerebellar meningioma, the veterinarians call it. According to Dr. Stacy Randall of San Antonio’s South Texas Veterinary Specialists, a meningioma is a benign growth that normally affects the brain’s periphery and usually shows up in the cerebrum. In this case, the tumor has penetrated into a virtually inoperable area in the cerebellum, and the prognosis isn’t promising. Maybe six months. Maybe a year.

But Hanssen is trying to stay optimistic despite the odds, and she’s doing all she can to save her dog or to at least have the satisfaction that she tried.

Dots on Harley's head mark the spot where doctors guide radiation therapy.

Already her pet has been through radiation treatments, pneumonia and seizures when death seemed imminent. (Dots on Harley’s head mark the spot where doctors guide radiation therapy.) He’s taking an array of medications, including lomustine, (a chemotherapy drug), phenobarbital (an anti-convulsant), prednisone (a steroid) and Valium(a relaxant). Medical bills through September totaled well over $10,000. Hanssen has been maxing out credit cards and bank accounts and selling items on eBay to pay the bills.

“I’m hoping for a miracle,” she says, “and the cost doesn’t matter. My dog means everything to me, and he has an important job to do.”

Harley specializes in “furry therapy.” He and his owner volunteer under the auspices of Paws for Service, an organization that provides canine visits to hospitals, nursing homes and schools. The two started out at the children’s oncology ward at Methodist Hospital and for the past five years have been regulars at Brooke Army Medical Center, bringing smiles to both staff and patients whenever they visit.

Lillian Stein, volunteer coordinator for BAMC’s department of ministry and pastoral care praises their contributions. “They’ve been out here almost weekly and Andrea also comes out to help with our barbecues and parties. She’s always upbeat, which means a lot to the patients, and Harley’s just this great, lovable guy who cheers everyone up.”


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…..

Comparative Oncology: Cancer Clues from our Dogs

Studies of pet dogs with cancer can offer unique help in the fight against human malignancies while also improving care for man’s best friend

By Dr. David J. Waters and Kathleen Wildasin, Scientific American, December 2006 Issue

Imagine a 60-year-old man recuperating at home after prostate cancer surgery, drawing comfort from the aged golden retriever beside him. This man might know that a few years ago the director of the National Cancer Institute issued a challenge to cancer re­searchers, urging them to find ways to “eliminate the suffering and death caused by cancer by 2015.” What he probably does not realize, though, is that the pet at his side could be an important player in that effort.

Reaching the ambitious Cancer 2015 goal will require the application of everything in investigators’ tool kits, including an openness to new ideas. Despite an unprecedented surge in researchers’ understanding of what cancer cells can do, the translation of this knowledge into saving lives has been unacceptably slow. Investigators have discovered many drugs that cure artificially induced cancers in rodents, but when the substances move into human trials, they usually have rough sledding. The rodent models called on to mimic human cancers are just not measuring up. If we are going to beat cancer, we need a new path to progress.

Now consider these facts. More than a third of American households include dogs, and scientists estimate that some four million of these animals will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Pet dogs and humans are the only two species that naturally develop lethal prostate cancers. The type of breast cancer that affects pet dogs spreads preferentially to bones–just as it does in women. And the most frequent bone cancer of pet dogs, osteosarcoma, is the same cancer that strikes teenagers.

Researchers in the emerging field of comparative oncology believe such similarities offer a novel approach for combating the cancer problem. These investigators compare naturally occurring cancers in animals and people–exploring their striking resemblances as well as their notable differences.

Right now comparative oncologists are enlisting pet dogs to tackle the very obstacles that stand in the way of achieving the Cancer 2015 goal. Among the issues on their minds are finding better treatments, deciding which doses of medicines will work best, identifying environmental factors that trigger cancer development, understanding why some individuals are resistant to malignancies and figuring out how to prevent cancer. As the Cancer 2015 clock keeps ticking, comparative oncologists ask, Why not transform the cancer toll in pet dogs from something that is only a sorrow today into a national resource, both for helping other pets and for aiding people?

Why Rover?
For decades, scientists have tested the toxicity of new cancer agents on laboratory beagles before studying the compounds in humans. Comparative oncologists have good reason to think that pet dogs with naturally occurring cancers can likewise become good models for testing the antitumor punch delivered by promising treatments.

One reason has to do with the way human trials are conducted. Because of the need to ensure that the potential benefits of an experimental therapy outweigh the risks, researchers end up evaluating drugs with the deck stacked against success; they attempt to thrash bulky, advanced cancers that have failed previous treatment with other agents. In contrast, comparative oncologists can test new treatment ideas against early-stage cancers–delivering the drugs just as they would ultimately be used in people. When experimental drugs prove helpful in pets, researchers gain a leg up on knowing which therapies are most likely to aid human patients. So comparative oncologists are optimistic that their findings in dogs will be more predictive than rodent studies have been and will help expeditiously identify those agents that should (and should not) be tested in large-scale human trials.

If we are going to beat cancer, we need a new path to progress. Pet dogs can reveal much about human cancers in part because of the animals’ tendency to become afflicted with the same types of malignancies that affect people. Examples abound. The most frequently diagnosed form of lymphoma affecting dogs mimics the medium- and high-grade B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas in people. Osteosarcoma, the most common bone cancer of large- and giant-breed dogs, closely resembles the osteosarcoma in teenagers in its skeletal location and aggressiveness. Under a microscope, cancer cells from a teenager with osteosarcoma are indistinguishable from a golden retriever’s bone cancer cells. Bladder cancer, melanoma and mouth cancer are other examples plaguing both dog and master. In a different kind of similarity, female dogs spayed before puberty are less prone to breast cancer than are their nonspayed counterparts, much as women who have their ovaries removed, who begin to menstruate late or who go into menopause early have a reduced risk for breast cancer.

Read more……