EPISODE 171 | RELEASED June 13, 2022
AKC Canine Health Foundation Funds Dog Cancer Research | Dr. Jennifer MacLeay
The AKC Canine Health Foundation provides funding for a LOT of dog cancer research! Learn how this organization benefits our beloved dogs.
The AKC Canine Health Foundation was founded in 1995 and is now an independent organization that gives grants to researchers studying health problems in dogs. Their website also features a variety of educational resources for dog lovers and veterinarians alike! Learn about where the money comes from, how they select which studies to fund, and some of the fascinating studies underway that will help give us some extra ammunition in the fight against dog cancer.
Links Mentioned in Today’s Show:
Canine Health Foundation Tribute Page
AKC Canine Health Foundation Facebook page
Ethos Veterinary Health Clinical Studies
American Veterinary Medical Association Animal Health Studies Database
[00:00:00] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: They’ll be looking at the genetics of the tumor and the genetics of the dog and looking at all of the interplay between all of those things and seeing how they might be able to best match treatments and the genetics, and ultimately, hopefully, come up with best scenarios for each particular dog.
[00:00:22] >> Announcer: Welcome to Dog Cancer Answers, where we help you help your dog with cancer.
[00:00:28] >> Molly Jacobson: Hello friend. Thanks for joining us today. We have a really interesting episode with Dr. Jen MacLeay as our guest. She’s the chief scientific officer, self-professed science geek, at the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. They fund research that is aimed at specifically dogs, all kinds of health conditions, but 25% of their programming is aimed at cancer research.
So she has a lot to share with us about what they’re currently doing at the Health Foundation and she also has some really interesting ideas and things to say about One Health, which I think it’s the future of medicine, not just for dogs, but also for humans and every other animal species. Dr. MacLeay, thanks for joining us today.
[00:01:14] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Oh, it is my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. I just love the idea of this podcast and what you’re doing here I think is so, so very important.
[00:01:23] >> Molly Jacobson: Thank you. There’s a, a large team of dog lovers, we call ourselves Team Dog. So there’s many, many people behind us who make this all happen. We like to say that even the bookkeepers are dog lovers.
[00:01:36] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Oh, when I was chatting with your producer the other day, we spent far more time talking about our dogs than talking about logistics of the show, I think.
[00:01:47] >> Molly Jacobson: It’s one of the hazards of working on Team Dog.
[00:01:49] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: It’s all good. It’s all good. Yeah.
[00:01:52] >> Molly Jacobson: No. No. We all know each other’s dogs and how they’re doing, and we’re just as concerned about their health and wellbeing as-
[00:01:58] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: absolutely. As it should be. As it should be.
[00:02:01] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah. So tell me just a little bit about your background and how you came to the Canine Health Foundation.
[00:02:07] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Ah, very good. Well, I’m pretty new to the Canine Health Foundation. I joined just about six months ago. They hired me as the new Chief Scientific Officer at the same time as they hired, uh, Dr. Darren Collins, who’s a veterinarian, as the Chief Executive Officer. And so we are both very excited to lead the foundation in new and broader directions. You know, the foundation is, is certainly not broken. It can continue to do what it’s been doing for many, many years. It’s been around since 1995 and we’re very, very excited.
What’s really new is the fact that with two new people, we’re looking to reach out to so many more dog owners. It’s traditionally been very focused on those who show dogs, kind of those people that you see on TV who, you know, on Westminster and the National Dog Show and, and we’re here for the health of all dogs.
And so from the pet dog that’s sitting on your couch right now to people who do agility and scent work and rally and everything in between, we wanna reach out to everybody.
[00:03:19] >> Molly Jacobson: That’s wonderful. And your foundation does not conduct scientific research, but it funds scientific research into dogs specifically.
[00:03:30] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Exactly. So we are an independent affiliate of the AKC. We’re the AKC Canine Health Foundation. And what that means is the AKC gave birth to us back in 1995, but then they set us on our way. We are an independent affiliate. We have our own board of directors. And so the AKC doesn’t tell us what to do. They are one of our biggest funders, but they don’t dictate what we do in any, any shape or form.
So they do give us money, but we have our own board of directors and our own scientific review committee. And we’re based out of Raleigh, North Carolina.
[00:04:05] >> Molly Jacobson: And when we’re talking about One Health as a model, it’s sort of a new idea in medicine, isn’t it?
[00:04:11] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: I think to some extent that’s true. And the, I thought it’s really interesting that, you know, some of the books that have really brought it into popular culture, of course, were written by human physicians and not veterinarians. And so to a large extent, you know, they’re preaching stuff that we already know and have said for a long time, but sometimes it takes a human physician to get the attention that it probably deserves.
[00:04:40] >> Molly Jacobson: Right. And so the, basically, One Health is the idea that what applies in one species does not just apply to that species, but can in fact apply to many species.
[00:04:51] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Right. And that we learn and carry over and have those cross functional conversations, ’cause it’s so important, and that there are people advocating to have common language, I think, especially in a world where we’re doing more and more Google searches. If people aren’t using the same words, you may never come across what they are doing if you’re not using the same, the same words that they’re using.
[00:05:20] >> Molly Jacobson: Give me some examples of that. Like what would people be searching for, but because they’re using the wrong word, they miss the actual results they’re looking for?
[00:05:27] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Early on in my career, I was very interested in – and actually all of my early research was around dietary acid base metabolism.
So, what that means is how we eat and what we eat. So as women, we’re really interested in avoiding osteoporosis as we get older. And so calcium metabolism is very important to me. And so I was looking at an animal model of osteoporosis and a lot of that metabolism and that dietary work that’s done in cattle, and milk producing cattle, dairy cattle, is often in the language of dietary cation anion balance.
And so if you look up DCAB or DCAD, for dietary cation anion difference, then you’ll find all of these research papers looking at that and calcium metabolism. But in human medicine, that same calcium metabolism as it’s applied to osteoporosis is often around potassium load and potential renal acid load of foods.
[00:06:37] >> Molly Jacobson: Oh my goodness.
[00:06:38] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: And, which is completely different language than, than the dietary cation anion difference. It’s even a completely different, in acronym. And so unless you start to come across some common language, you would never cross pollinate those two bodies of literature. And yet they have a tremendous amount in common.
[00:07:02] >> Molly Jacobson: That is fascinating. That is really, really interesting. So would you say that, in the future, perhaps veterinarians and human physicians might share a lot more language in order to make sure that all these concepts aren’t getting missed?
[00:07:19] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: I think it’s really important. And I think it’s not something that anybody ever does consciously. It has to happen almost subconsciously when you have meetings and scientific symposia and conferences where you put everybody in the same room so that they start talking to each other, and then they have to use the same language.
And then that naturally flows into using some of the same language when they publish and that’s what’s, what’s really helpful because if they can’t find each other, then they can’t, they can’t communicate together. But I’m not aware of anybody who’s consciously going out there and specifically talking about the language and the words that they’re using as the primary endpoint.
I think it’s, it flows out of the conversations that scientists have with each other. And there are more of those happening.
[00:08:14] >> Molly Jacobson: So, what are some of the, you say there’s these conversations that are happening more and more often. Are they at conferences or how is that working? How are people talking?
[00:08:24] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: This fall, for example, related to cancer, there was a canines as an environmental, oh, let me think of the title again. It was, you know, using dogs as sentinels for essentially the impact of environmental factors related to cancer for humans. And that was a cross species conference where both human researchers and veterinary researchers came together.
And the interesting thing is with COVID, not only were people in the same room, but it was a hybrid conference so there were a lot of people online as well, which is also the great, you know, it’s, it is a positive impact that has come out of, you know, COVID, is that many conferences now are offering a hybrid option which really allows whoever is online to participate much more actively with what’s going on at a, at a conference as well.
Whereas before, if there happened to be any sort of video component, then people might just watch it afterwards, but it wasn’t interactive in that way. I think one of the things that is really important in those conferences is that there are veterinarians and/or PhDs who have dog advocacy as part of their background, so that they’re not there talking about the dog as a model for human disease. You know, when we’re talking about One Health, they have to be there also talking about the fact that human disease can be a model for canine disease, and that we can also advocate for, that therapies be launched, you know, in both species at the same time, that people get away from thinking of the dog as a research animal. You know, they’re, they’re not a research animal in that context. Here, we’re really talking about advancing the health of both species at the same time.
And then you extrapolate that to, is it other species? Is it wild canids? You know, how far do we wanna really expand that, that model along, and non-human primates along that same line of reasoning follows.
[00:10:34] >> Molly Jacobson: Mm-hmm. When it comes to cancer specifically, which is obviously what our listeners are interested in-
[00:10:40] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:40] >> Molly Jacobson: -my understanding is that dogs are our closest species in terms of the physiological cancers they get, and what’s helping them often helps us. Is that correct?
[00:10:51] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: I think that to a large extent, that probably is true. I mean, certainly a tremendous amount of cancer research has been done in research animals when we think of mice and rats and that sort of thing.
But when we think of naturally occurring cancers, cancer is the number one killer of dogs unfortunately, it is something that we, as, as pet owners and dog lovers have to deal with all of the time, is, is the loss of our own pets. It can be a devastating way to lose our pets. Certain forms of cancer can occur very, at a very young age, or they can come on very quickly.
Hemangiosarcoma is certainly one of those, you know, almost everybody knows one. Yeah. You’re nodding as, so you can tell me that you’ve-
[00:11:32] >> Molly Jacobson: Every day.
[00:11:33] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yeah. Every single day, we do. We have so many stories about somebody, my dog was fine yesterday and today they’re gone, unfortunately.
And so, you know, the finite lifespan of dogs, the fact that they, you know, live closer to the ground, they live closer to our environment in that regard, they are exposed a lot more to environmental factors so they can reflect some of that environmental and toxic exposure potentially. So we need to take that into account. You know, it does seem like because of their relative rapid aging, because they live a shorter lifespan, certain cancers can manifest themselves more quickly.
And so that may serve as a model for human disease. So we need to look at those things that are common and we need to look at those things that are different. It may be that certain things, because they’re different, don’t make them a good model, or don’t make humans a good model for canine disease. But that’s what gives us insights.
Sometimes the differences help us ease the science and the physiology apart, and sometimes the similarities help us understand things more deeply. And so that’s what’s, what’s really exciting about, you know, that dialogue between human researchers and animal researchers so often.
[00:12:50] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah, it’s the future, it seems to me, of medicine, is that, is taking what we learn across the board and applying it and understanding much more deeply as a result.
[00:13:02] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Absolutely. And then to build on what you just said, you know, the idea of One Health is then you take other specialists and put them in the room and you let them build off of those ideas. You take the large animal internal medicine specialist or somebody who’s, as I was talking about earlier, there is actually a line of reasoning that I followed even in my, in my career, to use that as an example from the dairy cow to preventing renal stones and bladder stones in pet foods, designing pet foods for those, to osteoporosis in humans. So brittle bone disease later in life. There is a, a physiologic thread that runs through all of those things that seem very different, but are actually very, very similar. And you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on that unless you have different specialists in the room at the same time.
And so you need endocrinologists, people who – and things like diabetes and Cushing’s disease and things like that, to be in the same room with the oncologists, because their knowledge can really impact how we think about cancer. Nutrition is certainly starting to get a lot more attention because that can have an impact as well.
So we need to think of One Health much more broadly.
[00:14:22] >> Molly Jacobson: Right. Have you, at the Canine Health Foundation, have you, are you currently funding any studies on nutrition? That’s a hot topic for our listeners.
[00:14:32] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: It is, especially in the, in the area of cancer. Not specifically nutrition and cancer. We have ongoing studies related to, uh, copper toxicosis specifically and how it’s related to liver disease and that sort of thing.
In the past, we’ve had other related studies around growth and spaying and neutering and, and that sort of thing. And certainly diabetes plays a big role with nutrition as well. But nothing right now related to cancer and nutrition that I can remember off the top of my head anyway. But currently about 25% of our portfolio, about 160 plus studies, is cancer related. And, uh, and that, and I did just join, uh, as chief scientific officer within the last six months. So I’m studying up constantly but, uh, sometimes there are subtleties.
I think one of the things that we do need to often think about with cancer related studies is standardizing nutrition between studies, which is really difficult to do. And I think, you know, perhaps for your listeners, talking to their oncologist and that sort of thing, and being open to those things can be a challenge because I’ve had that conversation with researchers in the past around, well, you know, have you thought about standardizing nutrition and their response is, oh, dog owners would never let me do that.
And it’s so important-
[00:16:05] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah.
[00:16:05] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: -that we consider that as an, very important variable, especially if we’re studying, you know, certain kind of cancers. I mean, I definitely understand that if we’re at the point of hospice, we just want our dogs to eat.
[00:16:19] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.
[00:16:19] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: And then it’s far less important. Whatever they will eat, getting those calories in can be, you know, it’s often the final thing that helps us decide whether or not we’re going to lose our dog that day or another day.
However, if it’s a study where we’re looking earlier in life, or after a particular intervention, we don’t know that interplay between certain medications and nutrition. And so if we do get to that point where we have more of our investigators asking to standardize nutrition, I hope that our, I hope, I hope that our, our dog owners out there would be open to allowing them to do that because it’s an important factor, I think.
[00:17:01] >> Molly Jacobson: And it’s important because, just to make sure that everybody listening really understands why this is so important, food does matter. It has an impact on what’s going on in the entire body. And so if you have a great large sample study, like a lot of dogs are enrolled, but they’re all fed very, very differently from each other, it’s hard to tease out what’s going on in the study because you have all these different variables that you can’t control for, you can’t know.
[00:17:30] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Right.
[00:17:30] >> Molly Jacobson: So you’re saying that it would be great if dog owners, when they enroll dogs, if they are asked to follow a certain diet, are open minded and willing to do that.
[00:17:41] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. You know, we often don’t realize that there is a lot of variability between different foods that are on the market, especially with respect to antioxidant levels, such as vitamin E and vitamin C and things like that, and fatty acids between different foods. And we truly don’t know the impact that some of those might have on different forms of cancer and on different medications.
[00:18:09] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.
[00:18:09] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: So. Hopefully we will get to that point, it’s still a little early.
[00:18:13] >> Molly Jacobson: Those studies are difficult to design because by nature, we dog lovers like to love our dogs with our food.
[00:18:20] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: We do, we do. And they’re hard to design in humans too.
[00:18:24] >> Molly Jacobson: For the same reason, right?
[00:18:25] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: For the same reason.
[00:18:26] >> Molly Jacobson: For the same exact reason, because food is, it’s not just a source of fuel. It’s a source of pleasure and it’s difficult to-
[00:18:33] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Right.
[00:18:33] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah.
[00:18:34] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: I’m with you. I’m with you. It’s it’s, it’s hard. It is hard. It is hard.
[00:18:41] >> Molly Jacobson: So, what are you funding right now, that you’re really excited about in the realm of cancer? And then anything else that you’re excited about. I know that dog lovers have to deal with lots of different things.
[00:18:52] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Oh, we’ve got, um, I’m just, I’m very excited in that, May of course, is Cancer Awareness Month. And earlier this year we had the opportunity to have our review of all of the cancer studies that came into the foundation. And we were thrilled. First of all, the quality of the proposals that come in to the foundation from our investigators across the country, and across the world, really, is amazing.
And the fact that we can fund so many of them is a tribute to our constituency and to many of your listeners who I’m sure have also supported our studies in the past. In 2021, we were able to sponsor about $850,000 worth of studies. This year, it was $1.4 million worth of studies. So that’s 13 new cancer studies that are gonna launch this year because of the support of dog owners.
That is all dog owners stuff. So that is just amazing, amazing, amazing. And one of the things that is really exciting is the depth and the breadth of those studies. So some of them are cross-functional with different companies. So one of them is a study that is cross-functional with Ethos, looking at hemangiosarcoma.
[00:20:26] >> Molly Jacobson: Thank you so much, Dr. MacLeay. I wanna take a little break here and then we’re gonna come back in a little bit and I wanna talk about that Ethos study.
And we’re back with Dr. Jennifer MacLeay of the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. And you were about to tell us about a study you’re really excited about.
[00:20:50] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Well, I’m always excited about all of our studies, but I think one of the things that I’m really excited about this particular study is, well, I’m always excited about new ideas. And/or I’m really excited about studies that are very comprehensive. Ones that really want to collect all the data that they possibly can. And I think this one falls into that category. They’ve come to us and are adding 50 extra dogs into a 400 dog study, which is a huge number of dogs in a particular study. And-
[00:21:21] >> Molly Jacobson: So there’ll be 450 total?
[00:21:23] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: There’ll be 400, I believe, total.
[00:21:24] >> Molly Jacobson: 400 total.
[00:21:25] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yeah.
[00:21:26] >> Molly Jacobson: Wow.
[00:21:26] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: And-
[00:21:26] >> Molly Jacobson: So that’s a lot.
[00:21:27] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: It is a lot.
[00:21:27] >> Molly Jacobson: That’s a huge increase.
[00:21:28] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: It is a huge increase. And the idea is that all of the dogs will receive treatment. So there’s no negative control, because that wouldn’t be standard of care obviously, there are potential treatments out there for hemangiosarcoma.
So all the dogs will receive treatment. And they’re also looking at the genetics of the dog, as well as the genetics of the cancer. And I think this is one of the challenges, and you’ve probably already come across this, I’m sure, in many of the interviews that you do, that there are certain treatments now that are looking at the genetics of a particular tumor. And then there are also tests out there that are looking at the genetics of the dog, and that are telling the owner, you know, whether the dog might have a predisposition to a type of cancer.
And I think those are very different things, but in both situations a veterinarian would be talking to an owner about the DNA.
[00:22:23] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.
[00:22:24] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Either the DNA of the cancer or the DNA of the dog. And that can be, I think, a little confusing sometimes. And they both can help guide, potentially, the therapy that we ultimately might choose as we move in an era of precision medicine.
[00:22:41] >> Molly Jacobson: Right. Precision medicine is where you really target a tumor based on its specific genetics, and you say, this is what’s going on in the DNA of the tumor, and then we have this drug we know can target that specifically.
[00:22:55] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Right.
[00:22:55] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay.
[00:22:56] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: There may be eventually a time where we know the genetics of the dog and we put them on a specific therapy to prevent them from having a tumor.
[00:23:05] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.
[00:23:05] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: That would also kind of fall under that category of-
[00:23:08] >> Molly Jacobson: Wouldn’t that be amazing?
[00:23:09] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: That would be really amazing. And so-
[00:23:11] >> Molly Jacobson: That would be amazing.
[00:23:12] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: That would be a time that we can all aspire to for sure.
[00:23:16] >> Molly Jacobson: And then there’s this MDMR- am I saying that right? That there’s a genetic mutation that can cause a dog to not take chemotherapy easily because it immediately starts to reject, there’s a pump that’s activated, in the cell walls?
[00:23:29] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yes. And there are certain, um, I’d have to go, so I’m not, yeah, so-
[00:23:37] >> Molly Jacobson: We don’t have to go there.
[00:23:38] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: We don’t have to go there.
[00:23:39] >> Molly Jacobson: But there’s certain things in the genetics of a dog that can make a treatment more likely to work or less likely to work depending on what we know.
[00:23:47] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Right. And that is the key ’cause some treatments are actually found to be less likely to work. And so that is why sometimes doing some of these tests will be so important, is because we don’t wanna put them on a treatment that actually will hasten the death of that dog. We always want something that will help them.
[00:24:09] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.
So in this study, they’re looking at the dog’s genetic and the tumors genetics, and putting that into the big picture so they’ll have more information about how those things play out.
[00:24:20] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Right. They’ll have four different treatments and they’ll be looking at the genetics of the tumor and the genetics of the dog and looking at all of the interplay between all of those things and seeing how they might be able to best match treatments and the genetics, and ultimately hopefully come up with best scenarios for each particular dog with what we know today. And then hopefully they can adapt that, you know, way down the line if new treatments become available. But I think it’s a very, very exciting study.
[00:24:54] >> Molly Jacobson: It sounds amazing. And that’s specifically looking at – all of those 400 dogs that are enrolled have hemangiosarcoma.
[00:25:01] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yes.
[00:25:01] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay. So is that a fully enrolled study?
[00:25:05] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: It has not been fully enrolled yet.
[00:25:07] >> Molly Jacobson: Oh, okay.
[00:25:08] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: The portion that we are sponsoring, it is launching and we are still actively fundraising for it, but it’s going to happen no matter what. But we’re always actively fundraising. You know, even though we’ve awarded a study, we’re more than happy to take donations to help sponsor that particular study. So that is one that we’re, we’re very, very excited about.
[00:25:30] >> Molly Jacobson: And do you need more dogs to be included in that study, or do you have the 400 dogs already?
[00:25:35] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: They are actively enrolling those dogs as they come into the enrollment sites.
[00:25:41] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay.
[00:25:41] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: So sometimes there are studies where if your dog has a particular tumor, then you can go to our website and see if somebody is enrolling for that study and go to that particular site. Other studies, the dog has to come into that cancer center to be enrolled actively. In this particular study is being sponsored by Ethos Discovery and those dogs, if they’re coming into those Ethos cancer sites, they can be actively enrolled.
And there’s further information related to that study on our website as well.
[00:26:18] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay. We’ll make sure that a link to that specific study is included. And then I understand you also have a really good search tool.
[00:26:25] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: We do.
[00:26:25] >> Molly Jacobson: That people can go to and use to find programs that might be useful for their own dogs or that they could maybe join.
[00:26:32] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yes. And sometimes it takes a little digging, but if they can’t find anything, they can always reach out to us with an email and we’ll do our best to help them find what they need. ‘Cause there are 160 different studies so it can be a little bit to, to find their way through.
[00:26:48] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah.
[00:26:48] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: And of course they can always go to the AVMA clinical studies website as well, that can often help.
[00:26:55] >> Molly Jacobson: Yep. That can help. And then, separate from that, because I get at least once a week, I get someone saying, well, my dog had – we have the most generous people who are in our community – my dog has passed, I have some cash and I would like to give it. What’s the best way to use it? And so, I am always hesitant to recommend charities because I don’t want to recommend a charity that isn’t, um, fulfilling its mission over.
[00:27:21] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yeah.
[00:27:22] >> Molly Jacobson: Right?
[00:27:23] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yes.
[00:27:23] >> Molly Jacobson: So, but I looked up Canine Health Foundation. You guys get four stars from Charity Navigator, so.
[00:27:29] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Thank you. Yes.
[00:27:30] >> Molly Jacobson: Yes. I can confidently recommend.
[00:27:32] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: We are very proud of that. We have the highest rating from Charity Navigator, four out of four stars, which is something that we are very, very proud of.
It means that the absolute most percentage of every dollar that you give us, we turn around and put towards the research that we do. We try to obviously minimize the overhead that we have to pay for because we want all of those dollars to go forward.
[00:28:02] >> Molly Jacobson: To go to the dogs.
[00:28:03] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yep. It goes to the dogs. Exactly.
Exactly. It’s super important to us and our, and our constituency means a lot to us. And there’s a lot of different ways that people can donate. So it’s very nice of you to help. You can donate through our tribute page, so you could, we always obviously take donations. You can donate to the areas of greatest need, you can donate to a specific area of research.
So we’ve been talking a lot about hemangiosarcoma. We actually have a research program area in hemangiosarcoma. So if you wanted to donate specifically to that, you could. If you wanted to donate to cancer in general, you could do that as well.
[00:28:43] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay. So you can earmark your donation.
[00:28:45] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Mm-hmm. You can.
[00:28:46] >> Molly Jacobson: No matter how big or how small, you can earmark it.
[00:28:48] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Absolutely. If you have a veterinarian who has treated you particularly well, and you want to acknowledge them, you can send in a tribute to them. I keep saying, you know, somebody doesn’t have to have died for you to recognize that they’ve been nice to you. So, so you can do a living tribute for people as, as well.
And you can do, but of course you can always do memorial tributes for, for dogs or to people through us as well. And we always acknowledge whoever you want to tribute. You can also purchase a brick that would be at the Purina Event Center, that would be laid there. So that’s another way to have kind of a permanent, um, memorial somewhere for either a person or a dog or something like that.
I was just there last weekend and had a chance to find, the Canine Health Foundation has a brick memorializing the dogs that served at the 9/11 crash sites, the search and rescue dogs. So that’s a really neat thing that we have that there as well.
[00:29:48] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah. Remind me where the Purina Event Center is. Is that the one in, that’s your main?
[00:29:53] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: It’s in, at the Purina site in Gray Summit, just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. And that’s a service that they, that they do with us. So the bricks get laid there, but a portion of the purchase price for the bricks comes to the, support the Canine Health Foundation.
[00:30:09] >> Molly Jacobson: Wonderful. Are there any other studies that you are particularly interested in right now?
[00:30:16] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yeah. Well, we’ve talked certainly about that particular study. There’s, oh my goodness. There’s so many, there is, there is other studies that are looking at, there’s a vaccine that’s been commonly used in melanoma, and they’re examining whether or not that vaccine may have some efficacy in dogs for hemangiosarcoma. So that study is-
[00:30:39] >> Molly Jacobson: Oh wow. Is that the Oncept vaccine?
[00:30:42] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: I believe that is, but we’ll double check that and we can, and I can let you know for sure.
[00:30:50] >> Molly Jacobson: Okay.
[00:30:51] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: And, um, let’s see, we’ve got, oh, there is a very interesting study related to spaying and neutering and luteinizing hormone. So for example, in this particular study, we know that hemangiosarcoma tumors express the binding sites for luteinizing hormone. And we know that female dogs that are spayed have increased circulating levels of luteinizing hormone.
And that population of dogs is a bit more predisposed to developing hemangiosarcoma. But what we don’t know is whether or not luteinizing hormone turns on the replication of hemangiosarcoma, makes it worse, makes it more likely to metastasize, or anything along those lines. We really don’t know whether or not it’s just a coincidence.
[00:31:42] >> Molly Jacobson: It could be coincidence.
[00:31:43] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Exactly. That’s the word I was looking for. It could just be a coincidence.
[00:31:45] >> Molly Jacobson: Or it could be triggering something.
[00:31:47] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Right.
[00:31:47] >> Molly Jacobson: Or it could be enhancing something that’s already happening or accelerating something or, yeah. So you’re, that’s interesting. That’s very interesting.
[00:31:55] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: So we have no idea there.
And so we’ve got a pilot study that is being funded to look at whether or not there seems to be a stimulatory factor between luteinizing hormone and those cancer cells. And if they see that in vitro, so outside of the body, then that could lead to additional studies to see whether or not it’s a factor inside the body as well.
[00:32:20] >> Molly Jacobson: Wow. That’s really interesting. And so right now you’re doing Petri dish.
[00:32:23] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yes. Yep.
[00:32:24] >> Molly Jacobson: And later, if you’ve eliminated the coincidence-
[00:32:27] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Right.
[00:32:28] >> Molly Jacobson: -then you can move into living bodies and see what happens.
[00:32:31] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Right.
[00:32:32] >> Molly Jacobson: Wow.
[00:32:32] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Right.
[00:32:32] >> Molly Jacobson: That’s really interesting.
[00:32:34] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: And that doesn’t mean they would be giving dogs luteinizing hormone, but they would just be seeing whether or not there seems to be a driving force in dogs with hemangiosarcoma related to the cancer.
[00:32:44] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.
[00:32:44] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Mm-hmm.
Because that could ultimately give us a target. If we could block that, then perhaps it would decrease either the aggressiveness of the tumor or the development of the tumor in certain dogs.
[00:32:56] >> Molly Jacobson: This is really exciting. How many researchers submit proposals on average in a year? And how many do you actually choose to fund, would you say?
[00:33:05] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Oh, you know, that’s a really good question. And it varies a tremendous amount in our different research program areas. So I couldn’t give you a single number. We have different research program area announcements that go out throughout the year. And as people donate to us, if there is a lot of money, for example, that comes in for, related to cancer, because it’s such a, an important area, we actually can award cancer studies every year.
But other areas often don’t get as much money donated to them. And so we either have to wait until our buckets, so to speak, get more filled for general, so areas of greatest need, and then we can put it towards wherever we need to, or we can have kind of an open call for research proposals.
And so some areas we may not have a call for proposals every year. We may have it every couple of years. But one of the things that I can say is that our award ratio is very high. And part of that is because we try to only have a call when our buckets are very full. So when we have-
[00:34:21] >> Molly Jacobson: So you’re not disappointing people.
[00:34:23] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Well, yeah, in a way, I guess, I guess that’s a way to think about it, but we, we have a very rigorous scientific review process.
So I wouldn’t want people to think that we award, you know, scientific projects that aren’t good and well thought out.
[00:34:38] >> Molly Jacobson: Here you go, here you go, here you go.
[00:34:39] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yeah, exactly. Just because, just because you’re nice, here’s the money. Um, we have a very wonderful panel of highly knowledgeable scientists that sit on our scientific review committee of which I’m actually not on officially. And the reason for that is because it allows our researchers to call me up and bounce ideas off me and say, well, what do you think about this? Or how can I improve the scientific design of my study? And we encourage our investigators to do that. And I have experience in, in scientific design in, in that regard.
And, and I’m happy to just be a resource for them in general, because I’m old and I’ve been around for a while. And so they can do that. And then that also gives them the ability to go to our scientific review committee when they do submit their proposals, and it’s unbiased because I’m not then judging the proposal that I’ve already given them feedback on.
And our scientific review committee grades them using guidelines that are very similar to what the National Institute of Health uses, we use very similar grading system and a similar rubric. And then only the ones that are the very highest level ultimately get funded. And studies that are very large, that have funding requests over $15,000, are not only reviewed by our scientific review committee, but are also reviewed by external peer reviewers.
So we send them out to other world renowned researchers in the field and they give us feedback on them as well in a blinded fashion, a masked fashion so they don’t know who they’re evaluating and they can give us that feedback. And so it’s all very, very rigorous, but like I said, because of that and because most of our researchers out there do know what they’re doing and they, there’s a lot at stake, and most universities have good support systems in place to help investigators submit high quality proposals – the ones that we see by and large tend to be very good. And then we have a wonderful constituency, so our buckets tend to be very full, so we have lots of money. And then if we have a proposal that’s really great, we can turn around and go out to breed clubs, or to our support people, and we can then say, we have this wonderful study, can you please support it? And we can backfill if we need to, to support studies as well. So right now we’re pretty close to saying if it’s worthy, we will fund it.
[00:37:16] >> Molly Jacobson: And we’ll be able to find you the subjects to include, so we’ll be able to fill the study so that it can go forward. There’s this, there’s a lot of leverage, is what I’m hearing, is that you guys have a lot of, you have your fingers in, in the dog community, and then in the research community. And so you’ve got a lot of resources that you can bring together in a really leveraged way.
[00:37:39] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: It’s been really exciting for me to get to know the dog community. I’m the research geek of the group. Back in October, they hired me, they also hired a veterinarian by the name of Darren Collins. And Darren is our new CEO and Darren has showed Salukis and he’s been involved in dogs his whole life. I’ve always had pet dogs, but I’ve never shown dogs to any great extent. I play in agility – and I truly play.
And so Darren brings a lot of that knowhow in, and I bring a lot of the geeky science in, and we have a wonderful VP of programs and, and a development director. They know our constituency really well and have been introducing me around.
And so that has been super, super exciting. I’ve gotten to go, if you, if you go to our webpage, you’ll see me acting like a little kid. I got to play with at the Poodle show. And I got to go to the Labrador Retriever show and I got to go to a couple other shows. I’m going to the Dalmatian show next week. And, uh, I’m just getting to meet lots of dogs and it’s really, really fun.
[00:38:49] >> Molly Jacobson: Oh, it sounds wonderful. That sounds wonderful. I have kind of a general question for you because it’s something I always wanna ask everybody, which is, what is the thing – if you could tell someone who’s new to being a dog lover, who’s bringing a dog, their first dog home. What is the most important thing for that person to know about being a dog guardian, someone who is caring for this creature for their lifespan?
[00:39:16] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yeah, I think that’s great question. I don’t think there’s any one thing. I’d probably say there’s a couple things. One is obviously great information. So knowledgeable resources like yourself. Watch out for Dr. Google.
[00:39:35] >> Molly Jacobson: Our team.
[00:39:35] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Your team. Yes. You know, um, I think, I had a great conversation with a veterinary researcher who was teaching all the veterinary students that there, he’s like, I teach him about Google Scholar, and I was like, ugh, that makes so much sense. I think most dog owners don’t know that Google Scholar exists. Google Scholar as opposed to Google.
[00:39:57] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.
[00:39:58] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: So there is something called Google Scholar, which is actually evidence based stuff.
[00:40:04] >> Molly Jacobson: Right.
[00:40:05] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: And so use Google Scholar.
So that’s one of those things. So it’s not that you can’t, or shouldn’t look up stuff on your own, just know the resources that you’re doing.
[00:40:14] >> Molly Jacobson: Mm-hmm.
[00:40:14] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Develop that relationship with your veterinarian.
[00:40:17] >> Molly Jacobson: Mm-hmm.
[00:40:18] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: And then, you know, I’m a huge advocate for training your dog. So, you know, get out there and join a dog club or your local pet store that might have dog training classes and do some basic obedience. Start there, then see if you wanna do any dog sports or anything like that, but at least get some basic dog obedience on your dog. It’ll help with so much.
[00:40:43] >> Molly Jacobson: It helps with so much.
[00:40:45] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: So much.
[00:40:46] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah. Just last night, my dog was off leash in a little area where it’s safe for her to be with other dogs. And she’s got a bad back. So she was gonna try to come up the hill towards me, ’cause I was at the top of the hill and she was at the bottom and I was like, stay. And she’s 13 and a half and she sat and she waited for me to come around and get her and I thought, it was worth it.
[00:41:13] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: There you go. Yeah.
[00:41:15] >> Molly Jacobson: 12 years ago I went through all of that for this moment.
[00:41:22] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: There you go. No, it’s just, and it’s just so much fun to bond with your dog, you know, by doing some obedience.
[00:41:30] >> Molly Jacobson: Absolutely. Mm-hmm. Are there any other like really juicy things that you want our, our listeners to know about?
[00:41:39] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Well, we’ve talked about our website a little bit.
[00:41:43] >> Molly Jacobson: Mm-hmm.
[00:41:43] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: I think one of the things that I would love to encourage everybody to do is come visit us on social media, so the AKC Canine Health Foundation on Facebook, you know, let’s cross pollinate each other as far as, you know, liking you, liking us. Feel free to reach out to us. It’s something that we’re trying to do better. If we’re doing something well, let us know. If there’s something that you would like to know, you know, we’re open to feedback.
So please do that. You’ll probably see more posts from us going forward. We’re trying to communicate science much more clearly. You’ll probably see a change in how we’re doing that over the next year. We’re trying to be much more visual in how we’re communicating studies that we’re supporting and results from the studies.
So look for that. Consider, if you belong to a dog club, encouraging your club to become a member. Last year, we funded $3.4 million worth of studies, total. And there’s 5,000 AKC affiliate clubs out there, our licensed clubs. So that’s obedience clubs, smaller all breed clubs, pure breed clubs. That’s not just the big parent clubs.
If all of those clubs became a member, we’d have an additional million dollars to spend on dog research, and that’s only $200 a club. That’s kind of a bake sale. So.
[00:43:14] >> Molly Jacobson: Yeah. So an AKC club can join for $200 and that $200 goes towards Canine Health Foundation.
[00:43:21] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Yes.
They can become a member of the AKC Canine Health Foundation.
[00:43:26] >> Molly Jacobson: I see.
[00:43:27] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: We’ll send them a banner. And if they all joined, we would have another million dollars, that would increase our budget by a third.
[00:43:35] >> Molly Jacobson: That’s amazing.
[00:43:36] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: It is amazing. People think, oh, it’s just 200 bucks, but all those 200 bucks add up.
[00:43:41] >> Molly Jacobson: Who’s this?
[00:43:42] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: This is Hero. His name is Hero. Yes. Oh, your listeners are heroes too.
[00:43:48] >> Molly Jacobson: Thank you so much, Dr. MacLeay for joining us today, this was such a delightful conversation and I’m so pleased to learn more about the work that you’re doing at the Canine Health Foundation.
[00:43:59] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Oh, you’re very welcome, Molly. It was great to get to know you a little bit. And I have a feeling this will be the first of many conversations that you and I will get to have.
[00:44:07] >> Molly Jacobson: Yes. One of the things that you mentioned when we weren’t recording is that you would like to come back and give updates on new trials. And I think that is an excellent idea. And I know that our listeners will let us know if that’s something they would like to hear is, uh, updates on new trials as they come on board.
[00:44:26] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: Absolutely, happy to do it. Happy to do it.
[00:44:28] >> Molly Jacobson: Wonderful. Well, thanks again.
[00:44:30] >> Dr. Jennifer MacLeay: You’re very welcome.
[00:44:33] >> Molly Jacobson: And thank you listener for joining us today. I found this conversation just so fascinating. I feel like I saw a glimpse into the future of medicine with this whole One Health idea. I know we’re gonna be hearing more about that in the years to come, and I’m really hoping that Dr. MacLeay will join us again, maybe more than once, on Dog Cancer Answers to keep us updated on what clinical trials are ongoing for dogs with cancer and what we might want to learn more about in the future.
Don’t forget to listen and subscribe in any podcast app that you listen to. Follow us on social media. Please join our dog cancer support group on Facebook. It’s a really very lovely, wonderful group of dog lovers. And don’t forget to give your dog a cuddle from all of us here at Team Dog.
I’m Molly Jacobson. And from all of us here at Dog Podcast Network, I’m wishing you and your dog, a very warm Aloha.
[00:45:36] >> Announcer: Thank you for listening to Dog Cancer Answers. If you’d like to connect, please visit our website at dogcanceranswers.com or call our Listener Line at (808) 868-3200. And here’s a friendly reminder that you probably already know: this podcast is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not meant to take the place of the advice you receive from your dog’s veterinarian.
Only veterinarians who examine your dog can give you veterinary advice or diagnose your dog’s medical condition. Your reliance on the information you hear on this podcast is solely at your own risk. If your dog has a specific health problem, contact your veterinarian. Also, please keep in mind that veterinary information can change rapidly, therefore, some information may be out of date.
Dog Cancer Answers is presentation of Maui Media in association with Dog Podcast Network.