Here are answers to commonly asked questions about the Animal Cancer Foundation. If your question is not answered here, please do not hesitate to contact us.

What is the mission of Animal Cancer Foundation?

The mission of Animal Cancer Foundation is to find a cure for cancer by funding research in comparative oncology, the study of naturally-occurring cancers in pets and people.  ACF does not fund studies that induce cancer in companion animals.  All of our grants are awarded based on review from our scientific advisory committees through competitive process.

Do you fund cancer treatment for individual pets?

No, we do not fund individual treatment for pets.  We are a research grant making organization.  However, we do provide resources here on our website for pet parents seeking assistance. Click here for more information.

What research grants are you currently funding?

We are currently funding the Canine Cancer Genome Project (CCGP) sponsored by Blue Buffalo Foundation to map the seven most common canine cancer genomes and to place the datasets in the public domain for use by all cancer researchers.

CCGP is based on the successful Tumor Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) that mapped the human cancer genome. Exciting work in personalized medicine or what’s called targeted cancer therapy has emerged from genomics study. The Broad Institute successfully mapped the genome of a boxer named Tasha in 2005 in the Canine Genome Sequencing Project. Better technology for genome sequencing has lowered the cost and made the Canine Cancer Genome Project much more affordable than that early research.  https://ncbi.nim.nih.gov/genome/guide/dog

Once researchers have the genomic datasets for these canine cancers, they can compare the genomics to people’s cancer, identify similar targets and develop clinical trials for those targets.

Annually, we fund early-development comparative oncology projects through our ACF grant awards.  Announcements of recipients are made in the summer each year.

We also fund symposia and workshops in comparative oncology to bring researchers together.

How many companion animals (dogs and cats) receive cancer diagnoses each year in the United States?

Estimates indicate that there are 65 million dogs and 32 million cats in the United States.  Of these roughly six (6) million new cancer diagnoses are made in dogs and a similar number are made in cats each year in the United States http://ccr.nci.nih.gov

Is the incidence of pet cancer increasing in the United States?

Perhaps.  The incidence of cancer appears to be rising over the last several decades, just as it is in people, but statistics have not been carefully analyzed in this regard.  We do know that diagnosis is happening more frequently because pet parents are seeking veterinary care and specialty care for cancer.  Many factors may influence the appearance of an increase in incidence and more funding is needed for these types of studies.

How does this figure compare to people with cancer in the United States?

According to the National Cancer Institute for 2017: www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics

  • An estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors live in the United States.
  • 1,735,350 people were diagnosed with cancer
  • 609, 640 people will succumb to the disease
  • 15, 270 children and adolescents were diagnosed with cancer
  • 1,790 die of the disease each year

What were the most common human cancers in the United States for 2018?

  • Breast Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Colon & Rectum Cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Kidney & Renal Pelvis cancer
  • Endometrial Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Liver Cancer

What are the most common cancers in children and adolescents?

  • Leukemia
  • Brain & central nervous system tumors
  • Lymphomas
  • Soft-Tissue Sarcomas (of which 2% are osteosarcomas)
  • Neuroblastomas
  • Kidney tumors
  • Testicular & ovarian cancer
  • Germ cell tumors
  • Thyroid tumors
  • Melanoma

Survival rates are low for children and adolescents with a brain tumor called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a kidney tumor called Wilms tumor, sarcomas and for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Causes of cancer are not known.


What were the most common cancers in canines (dogs) in the United States in 2018?

  • Osteosarcoma (85%-98% of all primary bone tumors in dogs) – similar to childhood and adolescent osteosarcoma)
  • Lymphoma (similar to non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in children)
  • Mast Cell tumors (mutations similar to human GISTS – gastrointestinal stromal tumors and Small cell lung cancers)
  • Hemangiosarcoma (similar to human angiosarcoma)
  • Histiocytic Sarcoma (rare disease in people)
  • Soft-Tissue Sarcomas
  • Melanoma
  • Primary Lung Cancer (1% of all tumors)


What were the most common cancers in felines (cats) in the United States in 2018

  • Lymphoma
  • Infection with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) for which a vaccine is now developed.
  • FeLV can increase risk for lymphosarcoma
  • Mammary tumors
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Fibrosarcoma


In what ways is the study of pets with naturally-occurring cancer relevant to curing people?

According to the National Cancer Institute’s Comparative Oncology Program, pets (particularly dogs) are one of the best animal models because they share environmental risk factors with people such as water, air and even food.  Canine cancer behaves in a biologically similar fashion to human cancer.  For human cancers that have smaller populations affected, the millions of cases of spontaneously occurring canine cancers serve as models of the disease.  The progression of disease in dogs is rapid, because they live shorter lifespans than people; therefore, clinical trials also progress more quickly and therefore results are obtained much more rapidly.  Often protocols for pets are not “gold-standard” protocols, so pet parents are willing to participate in clinical trials of the newest options.

Where is comparative oncology research being conducted?

Comparative oncology research is now being conducted at many major medical institutions in conjunction with veterinary university teaching hospitals and with private veterinary specialty practices in the United States and abroad. https://ccr.cancer.gov/Comparative-Oncology-Program/sponsors/consortium

The Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (COTC) is an active network of twenty academic comparative oncology centers, centrally managed by the NIH-NCI-Center for Cancer Research’s Comparative Oncology Program, that functions to design and execute clinical trials in dogs with cancer to assess novel therapies. The goal of this effort is to answer biological questions geared to inform the development path of these agents for future use in human cancer patients. Trials conducted by the COTC are pharmacokinetically and pharmacodynamically rich with the product of this work directly integrated into the design of current human Phase I and II clinical trials. Our trials are carried at COTC member institutions, which currently include 22 sites.

All veterinary universities that met the established criteria have been invited to join the Comparative Oncology Trial Consortium. http://vetcancersociety.org/

The Veterinary Cancer Society (VCS) – http://vetcancersociety.org is a member professional society that sponsors an annual conference to disseminate the latest veterinary and comparative oncology research to its membership.  Members of this organization have been instrumental in gathering clinical data for development of veterinary cancer treatment vaccines, including the melanoma vaccine developed by Merial.

Animal Cancer Foundation