August 23, 2018 – Ralph Edwards, a Morris Animal Foundation donor, still remembers the feeling of big paws on his knee every morning. It was one of the ways, he said, Heidi, a Bernese mountain dog, expressed her gratitude for being adopted.
“She wasn’t even overly big for her breed, but she had these robust forepaws and forelimbs,” he said. “And she’d just lay them there and look at me as if to say ‘I like being here. Thank you very much.’ She was a remarkable dog.”
Ralph and his wife adopted Heidi from a kennel in 1996, when she was about 2 years old. Her owner had disappeared and Heidi was in desperate need of a new family. Heidi could be serious, stubborn and demanding, Ralph said, but she was always appreciative of the home she was given and the adventures she enjoyed, like fun swims in his mother’s pool.
The two developed a strong connection. Heidi was so communicative, Ralph said, she seemed to know what he was thinking before he did. Because of their closeness, it was especially difficult for Ralph when, in 2005, Heidi’s health deteriorated rapidly. He watched as her appetite decreased and her gait became wobbly. Ralph took her to his veterinarian, who confirmed Heidi had cancer and told Ralph to make her as comfortable as possible. A little over week later, Ralph had to say good-bye to his beloved Heidi.
Heidi was one of Ralph’s five last dogs, all of whom died from cancer. Though Ralph doesn’t know for sure what type they all died from, he believes the cancers may have been hemangiosarcoma, due to the speed at which they spread through each dog. And the cancers hit the dogs in their middle years. Except for Heidi, none lived past the age of 9.
"That is too short, even for the big dogs," Ralph said. "That's why I'm committed to help fix this."
The Foundation has been dedicated to the fight against cancer since its founding in 1948, and has funded more than 300 animal cancer studies, investing nearly $40 million to make progress in successful diagnosis and treatment. Below are just a few examples of canine-related cancer studies Morris Animal Foundation has recently funded.
Finding Ways to Block Hemangiosarcoma Tumor Growth
Hemangiosarcoma, a malignant cancer of blood vessel cells, is an aggressive disease that is rapidly fatal in dogs. Researchers will investigate ways to block tumor cells from using cholesterol and lipids that fuel tumor growth.
Understanding Metabolic Drivers of Osteosarcoma Tumors
Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer in dogs, diagnosed in more than 8,000 dogs in the United States every year. Researchers will explore metabolic drivers of cancer growth, such as glucose, and look for new therapy targets for the disease.
Evaluating a Novel Adjunct Treatment for Hemangiosarcoma
Researchers will determine if common heart medications are an effective adjunct therapy for dogs with hemangiosarcoma. The team will examine how these drugs disrupt signaling pathways essential for the cancer’s formation and growth.
Exploring the Broader Application of a New Cancer Drug
Researchers will determine if a promising new drug called eBAT, used to treat dogs with hemangiosarcoma, would benefit dogs with other incurable cancers. The drug uses proteins that fuel the growth of cancer cells as “baits” to deliver a lethal drug payload to its target.
Studies like these, and their subsequent breakthroughs, aren’t possible without donor support, though.
“This is going to have to be a widely fought effort,” Ralph said. “It’s going to take a lot of research into a lot of dark corners, but when you put lots of people together, you can come up with some great clinical trials. The only way to do that is through funding a place like Morris Animal Foundation. I applaud and support their efforts."
Learn more about our work in hemangiosarcoma.