Dr. Barbara Biller, D.V.M., Ph.D., Diplomate ACVIM (Oncology)
Associate Professor, Medical Oncology
I was interested in equine medicine when I started veterinary school, and thought it’d be great to take care of horses for a living. The oncology lectures in my third year, changed my mind. The instructor was amazing 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. Following my internship, I applied for oncology residencies, and was accepted at the 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 teach and do research, too. One of the best ways to do that effectively is to be in academia. I was probably one of the happiest people on the planet the day I got a faculty position with the Flint Animal Cancer Center. This is where I’ve always wanted to be. That feeling of gratitude is something I try to 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. Could we make that problem better by combining immunotherapy with traditional approaches such as chemotherapy? 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 almost always make animals feel better, not just when they have completed their treatments, but during the course of it, too. And at CSU, we certainly have the opportunity to do that in a lot of different ways.
I love working here, I really do. I like all the different parts of my job and the different hats that I wear. I love being a doctor in the clinic, a scientist in the laboratory and a teacher in the classroom. Treating cancer and fighting cancer can be a positive experience. The day to day truth is that our pets aren’t suffering with cancer – we are helping them live well, even when we can’t make the cancer go away.