The Canines-N-Kids Foundation has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Petco Foundation, a Founding Partner of the new northern Virginia-based nonprofit, to raise awareness about innovative pediatric cancer treatments that also help dogs.
The grant will help showcase the potential of comparative oncology, the study of similar cancers that occur in animals and people to find treatments benefitting both. The first portion of the funding will be used to raise awareness of the advancements in comparative oncology research and to support the Canines-N-Kids’ first “Paws for a Cure Summit” of key opinion leaders in veterinary and pediatric oncology, immunology and translational research, June 11-12 in Washington, DC at the National Press Club.
The grant will also be used to create a mission video and fund targeted research, Loudoun County resident and Canine-N-Kids founder and executive director Ulrike Szalay said.
“We all know a family touched by childhood cancer, even right here in our community. Yet few people are aware that because of the difficulties inherent in designing and implementing pediatric oncology clinical trials, there are scant resources dedicated to R&D for new pediatric treatments for the 16,000 kids diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. each year,” Szalay said.
In the past 30 years, only three new medicines have been developed for pediatric cancer in the last, only 4 percent of the NIH’s budget goes to kids’ cancer, and virtually no pharmaceutical funding goes to pediatric cancer research. For the six million pet dogs diagnosed with cancer each year, the outlook is no better, Szalay said.
“The Petco Foundation is honored to support Canines-N-Kids and this new initiative intended to spark lifesaving collaboration and research through funding innovative studies to save both dogs and children,” Petco Foundation Executive Director Susanne Kogut said. “This investment is made possible with funds raised annually in May during our Pet Cancer Awareness campaign in partnership with the Blue Buffalo Foundation.”
Dr. Gregory Aune, Scientific Advisor to Canines-N-Kids, is a practicing pediatric oncologist and cancer researcher at San Antonio’s Greehey Childrens’ Cancer Research Hospital and a childhood cancer survivor himself.
“Even if kids are lucky enough to survive like I did, the majority suffer significant, even deadly side effects from their treatments for their lifetimes,” Aune said. “We urgently need new approaches to get better medicines to kids.”
The good news is that there is hopeful science emerging from comparative oncology — treating, studying and beating cancer in dogs when they get sick, as a way also to help doctors accelerate better treatments and a cure for kids with these same cancers.
“Genetically, we are far more similar to dogs than we are to the mice in which we typically study cancer,” said Dr. Nicola Mason, a veterinarian and immunologist who oversees several comparative canine cancer immunotherapy trials at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine and a board member of Canines-N-Kids.
“Pet dogs spontaneously develop the same cancers that we do, and they share the same biological behavior and genetic abnormalities. Furthermore, we see a much higher incidence of some cancers, such as osteosarcoma, in dogs compared to children,” Szalay said. “Our dogs and our children need safe and more effective treatments for these diseases, so studying these cancers and novel treatments for them in dogs will likely expedite the development and use of better treatments for both species. Scientifically, it’s very compelling.”
“We launched the Foundation on September 1st of 2016 with a very ambitious goal, and are honored and grateful that the Petco Foundation shares our vision. Their generous grant will help us begin to put the necessary resources together to fulfill our mission and help both children and man’s best friend,” she said.
The Canines-N-Kids Foundation is a nonprofit, 501c3 public charity committed to finding a cure to the devastating cancers that canines and children face in common, including bone cancer, brain cancer, lymphoma and leukemia. The organization’s goal is to raise awareness of the shared and unmet need in the cancers afflicting children and dogs and to fund the most promising, humane research and clinical trials to treat canine cancer patients.