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5-5-5: New Cancer Project on the Horizon

Each day we lean on our furry best friends to keep us happy and provide us unconditional love. As good pet owners, you work to keep them healthy. At Morris Animal Foundation, we want to fund the best health science for pets. That includes tackling canine cancer—and an exciting new project does just that.

Cancer is a heartbreaking disease and osteosarcoma, the most common bone tumor in dogs, is at the top of the diagnosis charts, especially for large breeds. Sadly, more than 10,000 cases a year are diagnosed in the United States alone. It first develops in dogs between the ages of 2 and 3 years of age and often strikes again later in life.

“Bone cancer shows up as lameness, and 90 percent of the cases have already spread to the lungs and other bones by the time it is diagnosed,” says Dr. David Haworth, president and CEO of Morris Animal Foundation.

Treatment is usually immediate amputation of the affected limb, followed by some of the most toxic chemotherapy drugs used in veterinary medicine. Many owners elect to have their animals euthanized rather than face the treatment. 

Morris Animal Foundation understands the need to fight cancer and that is why we’ve launched a new initiative called the 5-5-5 Project. This innovative project will fund one osteosarcoma clinical trial per year for five years, each costing about $1million.

“In the case of bone cancer, a lack of clinical trials is the only thing stopping new chemotherapies from being adopted in dogs,” Dr. Haworth says. “Drugs are available and we know they’re safe; we just need to dig into the science a little further to make sure they work.”  

These Foundation-funded trials will have the added benefit of helping to inform the clinical trials for kids with the same disease. The Children’s Oncology Group (the largest association of physician-scientists working on pediatric cancer) produced a position paper earlier this year stating that spontaneous osteosarcoma in dogs is the best model for osteosarcoma in kids.

“This project will create real hope in finding safer, more efficacious treatments and ultimately saving the lives of our canine and human children,” says Dr. Haworth.  

The first trial will evaluate rapamycin, also known as sirolimus, a drug that targets a protein that regulates cell growth. Rapamycin exhibits antibiotic, immunosuppressive and antifungal properties and has been shown to prevent the growth of canine melanoma and osteosarcoma cells in vitro. If it’s shown to work in these clinical trials, it could be the next new treatment in the fight against bone cancer.

“This is a really compelling opportunity for donors to make a difference,” said Scott Koskoski, Director of Major and Planned Giving. “We have a leadership group of private and corporate donors that have committed early to this project and have helped fund years one and two. Because of this projects impact, we’re confident that others will step forward to ensure the financial success of the remainder of the study.”

To learn more about the 5-5-5 Project and to keep up with new veterinary science trends, visit

January 22, 2014