How ACF Began
In June 1998, Dr. Gerald S. Post, a distinguished veterinary oncologist, began to channel funding he received from grateful pet owners into projects that would benefit animals in the future. In 1999, as the number and size of gifts increased, he formalized his vision by creating the Animal Cancer Foundation so that many hundreds of thousands of animals would benefit.
As the foundation has evolved, so also has the collaboration of veterinary and human oncologists, as they work to discover more effective and less toxic treatments that will decrease cancer-related mortality in people and pets.
Leading the Way in Comparative Oncology
Today, ACF develops and supports research that advances the prevention and treatment of cancer for people and pets. Specifically, our endeavors focus on furthering research in comparative oncology, which is the study of cancers that occur similarly in both pets and humans. In this way, ACF is committed to advancing the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of such cancers, and becoming a preeminent resource in educating the public and scientific community.
ACF’s Research Focus
ACF is dedicated to funding innovative comparative oncology research to further the development of improved cancer diagnostics and treatments for pets and people.
Our pets are diagnosed with cancer at an alarming rate, with up to 60% of many breeds developing cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is also one of the most common causes of death in people. The most common cancers in our pets – lymphoma, bone cancer, breast cancer, bladder tumors, leukemia, brain tumors and sarcomas – are also very common in people, particularly in children.
Veterinary oncologists and medical researchers studying pet animal cancer are perhaps the single most untapped source of relevant clinical data in the fight against cancer in people. Why? Because for the first time in history the genomes of the dog, cat and human have been sequenced and this information can be utilized to investigate the similarities in the genetics of cancer in these “large animals.” These three species- dogs, cats and humans – are the only species to get spontaneously occurring cancer in the millions of cases per year. Unlike laboratory based mouse and rat studies, these comparative oncology clinical trials are conducted by the pet’s own veterinarian, an emphasis is placed on protocols that are designed to maximize both the quantity and quality of the pet’s life, and meaningful results for both pets and people can be obtained in a one to two year period.
To fund and develop research focused on the biologic similarity of cancer in pets and people that will expedite therapeutic and preventive benefits for both.
Dogs and cats frequently develop spontaneous cancer and, despite the obvious differences between people and pets, we share many of the same environmental and fundamental genetics that may lead to cancer. Increasingly, comparative oncology is affirming that only our domestic pets, and not laboratory animals such as mice and rats, are the true models for human cancer.
Pet owners who are not scientifically oriented are often surprised to discover that animals can even get cancer. So, in addition to the shock of the diagnosis, the thought that a beloved pet may have to undergo the animal equivalent of chemotherapy or radiation is overwhelming. Owners soon discover, however, that such treatments are humane, and better tolerated by pets than they are in humans. As in people, of course, response to therapy varies and, when currently available treatments prove ineffective or no treatment for the diagnosis exists, a pet may qualify for a clinical trial that could save or extend its life.
Until recent years, cancer therapies for pets were adapted from those used in the treatment of human cancer. All this is changing, however, as more gentle, less toxic therapies are being evaluated for the treatment of cancer in pets. As a consequence, therapies, which are initially developed to benefit pets, may ultimately lead to improvements in the prevention and treatment of human cancer.
To educate the public and scientific community about the biologic similarity of cancer in pets and people; also, to communicate the ways in which comparative oncology is accelerating the treatment, prevention and ultimate eradication of cancer.
In addition to discovering effective new ways for treating cancer in pets, ACF expects these advances may also lead to more effective, less toxic therapies for people. Because of many factors, including stringent regulatory controls, the development and approval of new anticancer treatments for humans is a lengthy process. ACF’s unique mission provides another mechanism for evaluating new therapies and expediting their application for people.
New Approaches to Cancer Treatment
Over the past several years ACF has collaborated with The Rogosin Institute at the New York Weill Cornell Medical Center in evaluating the effectiveness of one such novel approach that involves slowing or eliminating tumor growth through enhanced biological feedback control. Pets unresponsive to conventional cancer treatment options were treated with this new approach. Many showed dramatically prolonged survival (up to at least three years). In some cases, the tumors disappeared. This treatment is now about to begin human trials under an FDA Investigational New Drug License.
In another instance, a study of bone sarcoma in Rottweilers (a collaboration between Purdue University, The Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation and ACF), has shown direct implications for children and adolescents with bone cancer. The findings were subsequently published in the world’s most widely read journal on cancer prevention: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. This study, too, is scheduled for additional investigative research.