Pet owners around the world know all too well the feelings of helplessness and grief when their beloved cat or dog is diagnosed with cancer. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 12 million dogs and cats are diagnosed each year with cancer in the United States alone. The good news for pet owners is that Morris Animal Foundation is at the forefront of the fight against cancer, developing new tools for prevention, diagnosis and treatment to give all pets longer, healthier lives.
Here's a look at some cutting-edge cancer research we fund today:
Customized treatment, based on an individual’s or a tumor’s genetic makeup, tumor type and lifestyle considerations, is entering the mainstream in human medicine. Often referred to as personalized or precision medicine, oncologists using this strategy reject a one-size-fits-all approach to cancer treatment. Researcher funded by Morris Animal Foundation at Colorado State University are looking at ways to use this same type of personalized treatment for dogs with osteosarcoma, using tumor characteristics to guide the type of chemotherapy needed for each individual dog. The hope is that this tailored treatment will lead to a longer, better quality life for dogs with this deadly bone cancer.
Harnessing the power of an individual’s own immune system to destroy cancer is a promising new way to target cancer cells, and veterinary medicine is embracing this exciting new therapy. Cancer cells use a variety of strategies to make themselves “invisible” to the immune system, and the goal of immunotherapy is to overcome these defenses. In an innovative new study, Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are conducting a clinical trial to see if a novel immunotherapy can slow the spread of osteosarcoma in dogs.
New Imaging Techniques
Surgery can cure many types of cancer or improve prognosis and quality of life for our companion animals. However, it can be challenging for veterinary surgeons to determine during surgical procedures what is diseased and what is normal tissue. University of Illinois researchers funded by Morris Animal Foundation are using a new device that can detect tiny amounts of abnormal tissue left after a tumor is surgically removed from cats with feline injection-site sarcoma, a highly aggressive and invasive cancer.
The device works something like an ultrasound but can detect more subtle differences in tissue. This technology is used successfully in human breast cancer surgery, providing microscopic assessment of surgical margins within minutes. It allows surgeons to remove more tissue, if needed, while the patient is still on the surgery table. The Illinois team hope this technology also will improve outcomes for both cats and dogs with aggressive cancers that require surgical removal of tumors.
The use of nanoparticles, microscopic particles that can be used to carry substances in the body, has exploded in the last decade in human medicine. And now, veterinary researchers are exploring ways to use this new therapy to also help animals. University of Illinois researchers funded by Morris Animal Foundation successfully used specially coated nanoparticles to deliver chemotherapy directly to bone tumors. The Illinois team hopes this type of nanoparticle therapy can be used to successfully treat cancers in multiple species. In a newly funded study, Utrecht University researchers are testing a new protocol where they will use nanobodies that bind to tumor cells in cats with oral cancer to deliver an agent that kills cancer cells when excited with wavelengths of light. Oral cancers are devastating and difficult to treat in cats. This new treatment offers more hope than ever before for cat owners and their feline companions.
Morris Animal Foundation is one of the largest global nonprofits funding studies that advance the health of dogs, cats, horses and wildlife. With the help of passionate donors, each year we fund between 120 to 150 new studies that seek to solve the most critical health problems in animals. From saving endangered species to developing new treatments for cancer and detecting emerging health crises, together we give animals their best lives.