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Veterinary research sheds new light on cancer prevention

Patty Reise worried she didn't have any options when her 13-year-old corgi mix developed oral melanoma. "I was told that my dog had only months to live and that radiation and chemotherapy may not be effective," recalls Reise. Reise met with veterinarians at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals, part of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts. There, Reise enrolled her dog in a clinical trial to test a promising new immunotherapy for dogs with cancer. In a short time, the dog's tumor responded to treatment and with a small amount of supplemental radiation therapy, it disappeared altogether, and she has remained cancer-free ever since. Now, through a National Cancer Institute project, comparative oncology researchers at the Cummings School are determining exactly how the new drug works and whether it can help human cancer patients too.

Internationally known for its excellence in veterinary oncology, the Cummings School is at the forefront of the growing field of comparative oncology. Comparative oncology researchers study the biology and treatment of cancers in animals, with an additional goal of applying research findings to further understanding of the disease in humans. This approach promises more efficient development of effective cancer treatments for both animals and humans.

Studies of cancers in companion animals can shed new light on human cancer for a number of reasons:

  • Recent mapping of the canine genome has revealed that humans and dogs are quite similar genetically and share many of the same genetic markers for disease.
  • Many animal cancers share tumor biology and behavior with human cancers and, in some cases, have nearly identical responses to conventional therapies.
  • Unlike cancers in laboratory animals, cancers in pets are naturally occurring. Like human cancers, naturally occurring tumors in companion animals respond differently, and more variably, to treatment. They are better models of human cancers for this reason.
  • Millions of pet animals are diagnosed with cancer yearly. The volume of cases, as well as the shorter life span of animals that results in rapid progression of cancers, allows for completion of clinical trials in a relatively short period of time.
  • Companion animals are exposed to many of the same environmental risks as their human owners, suggesting their value as sentinels of disease.

Support cancer research in animals and humans by making a gift to comparative oncology research at Tufts.

Opportunities for Funding:

Endowed Professorship: $3 million
Clinical teaching and research fund: $500,000

For more information on comparative oncology research, please contact:
Shelley Rodman
Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
shelley.rodman@tufts.edu
508-839-7907