September 4, 2020 – Dr. Ashley Barnes is one of those rare breeds of Study participants – she not only has a patient in the study but her dog Maddie is Hero #319!
Dr. Barnes learned about the Study at a large veterinary conference in 2012. The Foundation was starting to recruit young golden retrievers to enroll in a first-of-its kind cancer risk factor study. Dr. Barnes had just lost a golden to cancer and was starting to think about getting a new puppy. Instantly, she knew that this new pup had to be part of the Study.
Like so many others, Dr. Barnes knows only too well the heart break of cancer that plagues the breed she loves.
“Not only had I lost our last golden to lymphoma but our family golden before that died of nasal cancer,” said Dr. Barnes. “I’m really a fan of the breed, so knowing I could participate in a project to address cancer incidence was an easy decision.”
Dr. Barnes has two patients from her practice that also are in the study. This has been an advantage when she has counseled these clients when questions come up.
“We have great clients who want to figure this out too,” said Dr. Barnes. “My clients know that I’m in the Study – we have a different type of camaraderie.”
Her expectations have changed over the many years she’s been an active participant.
“When I first enrolled, I was hoping we’d find major risk factors for cancer and be able to intervene earlier in the process,” said Dr. Barnes. “But I figured we wouldn’t know anything until the entire cohort passed away in 12 or 15 years. It’s been sad to see how many dogs have already developed cancer but encouraging to know that the Study team is already able to get data from these dogs.”
Dr. Barnes has occasionally needed to give a pep talk to her fellow client participants and what she emphasizes is open communication to find solutions to make it easier to stay enrolled.
“I found that there are always stumbling blocks to compliance,” she said. “Just by asking closely I’ve uncovered problems that we could fix and help people stay in the study.”
Dr. Barnes and Maddie have faced their own challenges. In 2018, Maddie was diagnosed with lymphoma. After a bone marrow transplant, she’s been doing great despite developing a fibrosarcoma on her leg in February 2020. Maddie’s cancer has just emphasized how important it is for participants to “hang in there” when it comes to the Study.
“I was a bit worried we’d see all the way through the Study,” said Dr. Barnes. “Keeping almost 3,000 people in a study for 13 or 14 years, I was imagining it was going to be a problem. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how many people have stuck with it. I think it’s so important for dogs to stay in to maximize what we can learn about cancer in golden retrievers.”
Without dedicated veterinarians and owners like Dr. Barnes, the Study would not be a success. Thanks to everyone for their time and dedication – we couldn’t do it without you!