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CVM cancer researcher offers leadership in creating canine oncology consortium

Veterinary and medical researchers, supported by the mapping of the canine genome, are advancing our knowledge of how various cancers develop and progress in dogs and what these disease mechanisms may mean for humans.

A little more than a year after researchers sequenced the canine genome, Matthew Breen, associate professor of genomics, is helping to establish the Canine Comparative Oncology and Genomics Consortium (CCOGC)—an initiative that recognizes the value of multi-institutional collaboration in canine and biomedical cancer research.

Dr. Breen, who participated in the canine genome project by helping to reassemble the more than 2.5 billion pieces of DNA or genetic information in proper order after they were decoded, says a major objective of the emerging consortium is to establish, manage, and sustain a national canine tumor bank.

“Having access to a large, thoroughly catalogued supply of tumor tissues for investigations of cancer biology should significantly accelerate the development of novel anticancer therapies,” says Dr. Breen. “This will not only enhance the canine health and welfare but, at the same time, it will help us understand significantly more about our own human health and welfare.”

Current plans call to populate the tissue bank during the next three years with some 3,000 samples, including 600 samples each of osteosarcoma, lymphoma, and melanoma tumors with the remaining 1,200 samples drawn from other cancers. These high-quality tissue samples, collected from some 10 veterinary colleges and referral hospitals in the U.S., will be available to veterinary and medical scientists worldwide.

Populating the tissue bank is anticipated to cost $2.2 million; and to raise these funds, the CCOGC incorporated, applied for nonprofit status, and entered into partnership with the Raleigh, NC-based AKC Canine Health Foundation and the Morris Animal Foundation. Each animal health organization provided $250,000 to the CCOCG. In addition, Pfizer Animal Health is providing $1.1 million for the tissue bank, which will be located in Frederick, Maryland and will be known as the Pfizer-CCOGC Biospecimen Repository. The remaining $600,000 will be raised through donations.

“The Pfizer-CCOGC Biospecimen Repository will bring together several communities of veterinary and medical researchers who are working on the problem of cancer in animals,” says Dr. Breen, who is on the CCOGC board of directors and acts as the organization’s treasurer. “A well-described repository of canine tumor tissues is an essential resource to progress new cancer therapies.”

Representatives of the initial funding agencies agree:

  • “The AKC Canine Health Foundation has a rich history of funding in cancer initiatives, having allocated nearly $4.3 million in research—much of it at the College of Veterinary Medicine at NC State,” says Wayne Ferguson, president of the CHF. “We’re proud to partner in such a meaningful way with our good friends at MAF, Pfizer, and the CCOGC as we strive to eradicate this dreaded disease for our canine and human neighbors.”
  • Michelle Haven, executive director of global discovery for Pfizer Animal Health, notes that cancer is a serious health issue for pets as approximately 50% of dogs over the age of 10 die of cancer. “The canine cancer tissue bank,” she says, “will allow veterinary and medical investigators to explore the mechanisms of cancer, to evaluate promising new drug candidates, and hopefully to better understand the relationship between human and animal cancers.”
  • Dr. Patricia N. Olson, MAF president, says, “Cancer often has devasting effects on our lives, whether it is an animal or human family member or friend. Thanks to Pfizer, CCOGC, the AKC Canine Health Foundation, and the Morris Animal Foundation, high-quality canine tumor tissue samples will offer scientists a unique tool in their fight to cure cancer. Through helping our canine best friends, we just might also help ourselves.”

Any individual or organization interested in helping to fund the remaining $600,000 cost of the repository can contact Dr. Breen at, Dr. Olson at, or Jeff Sossamon at