Morris Animal Foundation Campaign Enables Veterinarians and Oncologists to Tackle the Number One Hea

A new industry-wide effort has an anticipated $30 million of muscle behind it. The goal is to cure cancer in dogs within the next 10 to 20 years through the collaborative efforts of oncology specialists from across the United States. To achieve it, the Morris Animal Foundation, which launched the five-year Canine Cancer Campaign on April 17, 2007, must raise $30 million before April 2012. The foundation hopes to involve both corporations and pet owners in the cause.

Funds from the campaign will fund research into such cancers as lymphoma and bone cancer at 14 veterinary academic institutions and members of the National Cancer Institute’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (COTC). Five veterinary centers – including Colorado State University, the Animal Medical Center of New York, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Illinois and the Ohio State University – have already begun clinical trials.

Many professionals have identified the link between human and canine cancers, which is one of the reasons why Patricia Olsen, DVM, PhD, president and CEO of the Morris Animal Foundation, stressed the collaborative nature of the campaign. Its goals have been applauded by the Children’s Oncology Group as well as several other human medical organizations that have pledged their support.

In addition to sponsorships, the foundation hopes to collect $22 million from pet owners. Foundation representatives estimate that if one percent of the 44 million dog owners in the nation donate $50, the goal will be reached, and many dogs will reap the rewards of ongoing research.

A key component to the campaign is a national tumor bank, which received a $1.1 million donation from Pfizer Animal Health. The Pfizer-CCOGC Biospecimen Repository, located in Maryland, will allow professionals with the Canine Comparative Oncology and Genetics Consortium (CCOGC) to study different risk factors for cancer. Difficulties in collecting and housing quality specimens have hampered research in the past, explained Olsen. “Tissues are worthless unless you have a good history.” Pertinent information includes breed, age, gender, diet, and whether a dog was spayed or neutered. The creation of the tumor bank will enable research to move forward.

“We should now be able to detect genetic, environmental and nutritional risk factors,” Olsen added. “We are partnering with any health professional [who can help us] advance our case and [anyone we can help] advance theirs,” Olsen said.