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Murphy Foundation Launches First-Ever Cancer Prevention Trial in Pet Dogs


Scientists unveil new approach to fighting cancer in man’s best friend.
The Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation announced today the launch of the first randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled cancer prevention trial in pet dogs. The study will enroll 700 Rottweiler dogs nationwide to test the hypothesis that daily supplementation with dietary antioxidants can substantially reduce the incidence of bone cancer.

Healthy, cancer-free Rottweilers 5 to 6 years of age will be randomized into two treatment groups (supplements versus no supplements) and then followed for up to eight years. The primary endpoint of the study is bone cancer incidence. Secondary endpoints include overall cancer incidence and longevity. The study is designed so that investigators can detect if their intervention significantly reduces the risk of bone cancer. Further, it will test whether antioxidants can increase the number of Rottweilers reaching exceptional longevity, i.e. 13 years old.

The nationwide study is being led by the Murphy Foundation, working together with a skilled network of practicing veterinarians, and is funded by P&G (NYSE: PG) Pet Care, the makers of Iams and Eukanuba.

Previous work with Rottweilers conducted by Murphy Foundation scientists confirmed this breed’s strong predisposition to bone cancer. “Rottweiler owners stand strongly committed to helping us figure out just how to reduce the number of dogs that succumb to cancer,” said lead investigator David J. Waters, DVM, PhD, Executive Director of the Murphy Foundation. “This trial takes an important first step toward that goal. Our end goal is to help not only dogs, but their human owners as well, by preventing this devastating disease.”

“The intervention we’re testing is a potent antioxidant combination that significantly reduces the sensitivity of cells to oxidative stress,” said Michael Hayek, PhD, associate director of research and development, P&G Pet Care. “In a pilot study, we teamed up with Murphy Foundation scientists to show that daily treatment with these supplements rendered the blood cells of dogs more resistant to oxidative stress challenge in the laboratory.”

“This landmark study will test whether a change in diet that heightens your defenses against oxidative stress translates into reduced cancer risk or increased longevity. That’s very exciting,” said Waters. Enrollment of dogs into the trial is expected to be completed during the next 30 months.

Previous emphasis in cancer research -- for humans as well as dogs -- has focused mainly on treatment, not prevention. Prevention is a surprisingly new concept within the cancer research community. Although cardiologists have known for a long time that prevention of heart disease holds the key to saving many lives, it was not until October 2002 that a group of cancer scientists first gathered at an American Association for Cancer Research-sponsored conference on cancer prevention. As the only group with veterinary expertise at the 2002 conference, Murphy Foundation scientists were recognized for their contributions to advancing the frontiers of cancer prevention research, and for pioneering the application of new discoveries to both humans and animals, a field known as comparative oncology.

The emerging discipline of comparative oncology was recently highlighted in an article titled “Cancer Clues from Pet Dogs” written by Dr. Waters in the December 2006 issue of Scientific American.

As the world’s first cancer prevention study benefiting pet dogs and humans, this new trial is part of a larger research and education initiative of the Murphy Foundation known as 2 Steps Ahead (TM). Whereas early detection of cancer through screening -- such as the PSA blood test or mammography -- keeps you one step ahead of a diagnosis of advanced cancer, cancer avoidance through prevention keeps you two steps ahead of lethal cancer.

As part of the 2 Steps Ahead (TM) program, the Murphy Foundation is also participating in SELECT, the largest human prostate cancer prevention trial ever conducted. SELECT is a 12-year study funded by the National Cancer Institute that is currently testing whether daily supplementation with two antioxidant nutrients (vitamin E and selenium) can reduce prostate cancer risk in more than 32,000 men.

This newly announced cancer prevention trial in pet dogs solidifies the idea of antioxidants as cancer preventives, and establishes the Murphy Foundation as a preeminent leader in comparative oncology research that benefits pets and people.


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