AKC Canine Health Foundation Presents Young Investigator Awards at 5th International Genes Dogs & Cancer Conference


The weekend of February 13th, 2009, saw a gathering of renowned experts working on diverse aspects of cancer in dogs, with an emphasis on genetics and molecular biology.  The Genes, Dogs & Cancer: 5th International Canine Cancer Conference brought together scientists, veterinarians and breed club representatives in collaborations that will advance research to reduce suffering and death caused by cancer in dogs, humans, and other animals.

The three sessions covering the biology, prevention and treatment of cancer in dogs spanned two and a half days of presentations, posters and discussion of the number one disease killer of dogs.  The first session, with a keynote address from Elaine Ostrander, PhD of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, discussed the variety of genome wide analyses currently being used in cancer mapping.  Simon Gregory, PhD of the Center for Human Genetics at Duke University was the keynote for the second session, which covered complimentary aspects of ongoing research to identify specific genetic markers, genes and gene expression signatures that are associated with diagnosis and prognosis.  Session three highlighted progress in the evaluation of new therapeutics in dogs with cancer with a keynote presentation from David Vail, DVM, PhD of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

There were several awards made during this years’ conference.  There are two Young Investigators Awards in memory of Robert L. Kelly.  The Kelly Award for clinical/translational medicine was conferred upon Erin Thacker.  Dr. Thacker is currently a Postdoctoral Trainee in Dr. David Curiel’s lab in the Department of Medicine and Gene Therapy Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Dr. Thacker’s research involves investigating Adenovirus-based gene therapies for the treatment of metastatic and recurrent cancers in dogs and humans.

The Kelly Award for basic science was awarded to two investigators this year: Dr. Kevin Woolard and Dr. Benoit Hedan.  Dr. Woolard completed a veterinary residency and is currently in the residency/PhD program with North Carolina State University and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  Under the mentorship of Dr. Howard Fine at the Center for Cancer Research at NCI, Dr. Woolard has been investigating tumor stem cells and the roll of the dog as a model for brain tumors in humans. Dr. Benoit obtained his DVM from the veterinary school of Nantes, France and completed a PhD in canine genetics at the University of Rennes, France. His studies involve looking for genes associated with merle coat color and with histiocytic malignancies.

This year we introduced the Luna Award.  Named in memory of Sandra Thomas’ German Shepherd Dog who suffered from hemangiosarcoma, the Luna Award was presented to Jennifer McCleese for her work in novel therapies for canine cancer.  Dr. McCleese is completing her combined PhD Graduate Program/Clinical Pathology Residency at The Ohio State University in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Veterinary Biosciences.  For the past three years, under the mentorship of Dr. Cheryl London, she has investigated the use of novel therapeutics for the treatment of osteosarcoma.

Special thanks go to the sponsors of the conference: Giant Schnauzer Club of America, Golden Retriever Foundation, National Amateur Retriever Club, Starlight Fund, American Boxer Charitable Foundation, French Bulldog Club of America, Leonberger Health Foundation, Morris Animal Foundation, National Beagle Club, Newfoundland Club of America Charitable Trust, Scottish Terrier Club of America Health Trust Fund, Westie Foundation of America, Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute, Irish Setter Club of America, Rottweiler Health Foundation and Clumber Spaniel Health Foundation/Clumber Spaniel Club of America.

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