|CSU Home CSU Directory CVMBS Home Site Index Students Web CT|
Insight/Report on Private Giving
Pets, People Helped by Pioneering Research at Animal Cancer Center
In December 2005, the Robert H. and Mary G. Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University received a grant from the Denver-based Limb Preservation Foundation to study a new treatment that may one day help children and dogs with bone cancer. By most measures, at $50,000, the grant is small, but the story behind the grant is the story of how much of the work at the Flint Animal Cancer Center started small and led to the development of the world’s leading center of animal cancer research and treatment.
Dr. Stephen Withrow, Director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center (ACC) and Dr. Ross Wilkins, co-founder of the Limb Preservation Foundation, have long collaborated on osteosarcoma research and the development of new treatments for both people and dogs. Dr. Tom Arganese also was a co-founder of the Limb Preservation Foundation, but was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 2000. The Tom Arganese Musculoskeletal Oncology Laboratory at CSU was named in his honor. The newly funded study respects his vision of aggressive treatment for extremity cancer.
The project was initially conceptualized by Dr. Peter Anderson at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and Dr. Withrow. Initial funding came from Dr. Anderson’s research funds, the Flint Animal Cancer Center Foundation, and Dr. Bill Goeckeler of Cytogen, who provided the heart-lung machine and target drug at no cost.
The new therapy is a bone-seeking, radioactive drug known as samarium. ACC researchers are exploring new methods for delivering the drug that avoids systemic or whole-body side effects. In a dog with a leg tumor, for example, the leg is placed on a heart-lung machine to isolate the blood supply from the rest of the body. The drug is then delivered directly to the tumor sparing the bone marrow in the rest of the body from its potentially toxic affects. Early results continue to be encouraging in terms of minimal side effects and “selective” cancer cell kill.
If successful, investigators at the ACC will have discovered a new way for delivering treatment that will have a huge impact on the care of both canine and human bone cancer patients. The grant provides seed money for an initial study to prove efficacy and safety. From there Dr. Nicole Ehrhart, Co-director of the Musculoskeletal Oncology Laboratory, hopes to apply for larger grants. In addition to the samarium study, the Limb Preservation Institute has pledged $100,000 to support the Ross Wilkins Limb Preservation endowment and has pledged to complete the endowment.
“What we see at the Flint Animal Cancer Center time and time again, are the strong relationships we have built with so many people over the years developing into partnerships to advance cancer diagnosis and treatment in humans and animals,” said Dr. Withrow. “Because we do comparative oncology, we are successfully able to receive grants from governmental agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, but private donations give us the ability to go to ‘riskier’ places in our research.”
In addition to funding innovative research projects, private donations have provided the lion’s share of the budget to build the new Flint Animal Cancer Center at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Robert H. and Mary G. Flint provided more than $4 million toward the construction in honor of their two golden retrievers, Anna and Eve, who both were cared for at the Flint Animal Cancer Center. Private donations also help to fund faculty, research and administrative positions. Barbara Cox Anthony provided funding for an endowed chair at the Flint Animal Cancer Center, as well as the chair she endowed at the Orthopaedic Research Center. The Stuart Chair in Oncology is the result of relationships built on trust, integrity and the desire to advance animal cancer care.
Educational programs also benefit from private support. In September 2005, an anonymous donor provided a $1 million grant through the Morris Animal Foundation to underwrite a graduate program in cancer biology. In 2004, because of its excellence in teaching and research, the Radiological Health Sciences and Cancer Research Program, with the Flint Animal Cancer Center at its core, was selected one of the University’s Programs of Research and Scholarly Excellence.
“Private funding is absolutely critical to our program,” said Dr. Withrow. “We simply would not have a program of excellence without the private sector – it really does take a village.”
And what a large village the Flint Animal Cancer Center has – hundreds if not thousands of clients who contribute in large and small ways. Dr. Withrow usually has a small stack of thank-you letters on his desk, many times with a small contribution tucked inside thanking the staff of the Flint Animal Cancer Center for the care a pet has received or as a memorial to a pet that has died. Such gifts often are used to support the costs associated with running the ACC, including the 3,000 consult calls the faculty and staff field each year.
“We believe in curing cancer for the sake of the dog, but because what we do translates into helping humans, many people want to know what they can do to help us be successful,” said Dr. Withrow. “It is such an honor for us, and the trust and faith of our donors – that we can do more and that we can make a difference – is something that we take to heart every day.”