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Dr. Barb Biller

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Dr. Barb BillerI was interested in equine medicine when I started veterinary school, and thought it’d be fun to treat horses. The oncology lectures in my third year, changed my mind. The instructor was a really good teacher and really fired up my imagination about treating cancer. From there it was mostly meeting the right people at the right time as I went along. My interest continued to increase as I realized that oncology was a great way to incorporate the research background I had before I went into veterinary school. So, by the time I started in my internship, I already had a strong interest in oncology. I then applied for oncology residencies, and got one at University of Illinois. Three years later we moved our young family back to Colorado to practice.

Even though I enjoyed private practice, I wanted to do research too. The only way to do that effectively is to be in academia. I was the happiest person in the whole entire world the day I got a faculty position with the Flint Animal Cancer Center. This is where I always wanted to be, and in the kind of job I wanted. That gratefulness and thankfulness is a big thing I bring to work every day.

One of the most exciting parts about being with the Flint Animal Cancer Center is our ability to design studies to apply our ideas from the research laboratory directly to patients with cancer. For instance, even if I hadn’t earned an advanced degree in immunology, I’d still wonder why the immune system doesn’t deal with cancer very well. And how can we make that problem better? How can we combine what we do traditionally, with new treatments; particularly immunotherapy? Here at the Flint Animal Cancer Center, we do both basic research and clinical research simultaneously. We learn basic principles in the laboratory and then apply those principles to new ways of treating pets with cancer. They go hand in hand.

Our guiding principle is that we make animals feel better – not worse. I think cancer has more emotional baggage associated with it than other chronic diseases because of the difference between how people perceive cancer therapy and how we perceive it as veterinary oncologists. What we see is that we can make animals feel better, and keep them feeling better for a relatively long period of time. And at CSU, we certainly have the opportunity to do that in a lot of different ways.

I love being here, I really do. I like all the different parts of my job and all the different hats that I wear. I love being a doctor in the clinic, and I love being a scientist in the laboratory. It is the best of all worlds, to be able to do all of it. Treating cancer and fighting cancer is a really positive thing. The day to day truth is that our pets aren’t suffering with cancer. We’re helping them live well, even when we can’t make the cancer go away.

 

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