For more than 35 years, the Flint Animal Cancer Center (FACC) has been at the forefront of understanding the fundamental mechanisms of cancer biology, disease diagnosis, and development of effective therapies. Our focus is on comparative oncology to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer in pet animals, and translate our research and knowledge to also benefit people with cancer. To support that work, FACC has 12 laboratories that study many aspects of cancer, including cancer biology, clinical pathology, clinical immunology, and experimental therapeutics. Our staff include both basic “bench” researchers and clinical researchers. Most of our clinical researchers focus on clinical trials that allow our patients to potentially benefit from the latest diagnostics and treatments that are not yet on the market.
In addition to our dedicated research laboratories, FACC maintains state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, including a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suite that includes a GE Millennium VG SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) technologies. These nuclear medicine capabilities are not currently available elsewhere in the world for veterinary patients.
Our research subjects are dogs and cats that come to our facility as patients with naturally occurring cancers. We have a colony of dogs or cats that we maintain and artificially induce cancer to study. Our clinical patients provide the best research population because they have spontaneously occurring tumors, they share their home environment with people, and studying their cancers can help, not only the patient and other dogs/cats, but also people. Many of the cancers that dogs contract also occur in people. Studying dogs with cancer helps to close the gap between rodent studies and clinical trials in people because cancer in dogs and cancer in people have many similarities.
Dogs and cats that enroll in our clinical trials program, with owner consent, receive treatment on an outpatient basis while they continue to live at home. Our nurses and veterinarians make certain they receive all the tests and treatments outlined in their specific protocol and that our patients are doing well during treatment. The main goal for every patient is good quality of life.
Laboratories and Research Programs
Molecular Oncology and Functional Genomics
The focus of this laboratory is defining the mechanisms of gene expression, genomics and biomarker development in canine cancers. This laboratory also provides a cell-line validation service for canine and feline cell lines.
A high-throughput service laboratory offering clinical screening and diagnosis of lymphoproliferative diseases in dogs. Characterization of lymphatic cancers through immunophenotypic and molecular assays is frequently incorporated into research protocols.
Emphasis is on monocyte-mediated vaccine strategies for cancer and myeloid-suppressor cell assessment. All current immune function and detection assays are available.
Musculoskeletal Oncology and Trauma
Advanced preclinical models are available to study orthopedic cancers or trauma that put limbs at risk. Mesenchymal stem cell strategies for massive defect repair is of current emphasis.
The pharmacology facilities serve as the Shared Resource for the CU Comprehensive Cancer Center and also represents the pharmacology core for the Colorado Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the CU Medical School. Recent upgrades to state-of-the-art analytic technology were accomplished in 2014. All assay development, PK/PD and modeling services are available (GLP if needed).
This laboratory has developed and maintains approximately 30 canine and 4 feline cell lines for use in screening and identification of novel products. Cell lines have been validated and are in the process of undergoing expression profiling, DNA and miRNA sequencing. Common molecular assays and in vivo xenograft and bioluminescence studies are available.
A dedicated facility for accumulating, curating and storing samples from patients with cancer evaluated at the VTH. Approximately 25,000 samples for tumor/normal tissue and associated fluids in a variety of formats (frozen, FFPE, RNA later) are available. Annotated electronic medical records are available for sample sets.
The Neurology Service is a leader in canine brain tumor treatment and comparative neuro-oncology research. CSU houses one of the few active tissue banks for canine brain tumors. Active clinical trials include an immunotherapy/vaccine trial for glioma, and advanced neurosurgical approaches to deep brain tumors.
A dedicated laboratory for development and use of biomarker assays in cancer of companion and laboratory animals. New automated staining and quantitation technology, study design and planning, as well as veterinary pathology expertise are available.
The long-term research goal of this lab is to fully elucidate the mechanisms by which tumors prime non-malignant host stromal cells of distant organs to promote their metastasis and chemo-resistance, in order to identify novel targets for host-directed stromal therapies which “poison the soil” for effective combination with conventional tumor cell targeted drugs.
CSU has been an international leader in radiation biology and physics for many years. Within the FACC, radiation research includes basic and clinical applications of radiation and multimodality therapeutics.
Golden Retriever Lifetime Study
The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is the largest and most comprehensive observational study ever attempted in veterinary medicine in the United States. We are a proud partner with the Morris Animal Foundation for this important research. For more information please visit the Morris Animal Foundation’s Canine Lifetime Health project.