University of Guelph Creates Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation

July 16, 2007 - News Release

The University of Guelph has launched a groundbreaking initiative in the fight against cancer with the creation of the Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation (ICCI).

The first of its kind in Canada, the institute will be dedicated to providing comprehensive cancer care for companion animals and unlocking the deadly secrets of the disease for the benefit of all species, including humans.

“While in general our pets are living longer, healthier lives, as they get older they are also prone to cancer – just like people,” said ICCI co-director Prof. Paul Woods, clinical studies. “Dogs, in particular, develop many of the same types of cancers that we find in people. So by studying dogs with cancer, we can help fight and perhaps even prevent the disease in humans while improving care for the animals.”

Cancer treatments currently account for about one-third of the visits to the Ontario Veterinary College small-animal clinic, said Woods.

“Cancer is primarily a disease of an aging population, and companion animals are no exception. There is an increasing expectation from referring veterinarians and animal owners that cancer diagnosis and care for companion animals be at a level of sophistication and effectiveness similar to that found in human medicine.”

OVC dean Elizabeth Stone said veterinary medicine has also become an effective testing ground for new cancer therapies because it allows researchers to study naturally occurring cancer in dogs and cats and conduct clinical trials that parallel human research.

“By combining our expertise in basic cancer biology and veterinary medicine, OVC is taking an integrative approach to cancer studies that cannot be matched in a human health care environment,” said Stone. “The ICCI takes advantage of Guelph’s unique potential to broaden the scope of research and deepen our understanding of cancer. Investigators will be studying all aspects of the disease including abnormal cells and tissues at the molecular level, applied clinical care, cancer nutrition and prevention, environmental factors and societal impacts.”

Establishment of the institute will involve building a world-class facility within the OVC Teaching Hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, teaching and clinical research. This Animal Cancer Care Centre will offer diagnostic imaging, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, client counselling and investigational therapies.

The ICCI also entails collaborative research involving more than 30 cancer investigators from at least a dozen departments in OVC and other colleges across U of G.

“This aspect of the ICCI is unique because it will facilitate interactions not only between clinicians and cancer biologists but also among chemists, mathematicians, computer scientists, toxicologists, psychologists and others with expertise and interest in diverse aspects of cancer,” said ICCI co-director Prof. Brenda Coomber, biomedical sciences.

It’s expected that other cancer experts from Waterloo, Toronto, London and Hamilton will also be part of this comprehensive cancer research team.

“This is an important milestone for all of us,” said Stone. “The ICCI will be a tremendous benefit to our patients, their owners, referring veterinarians and society as a whole. It will also be a magnet for top students and researchers, who will want to be a part of it.”

Barry Gunn
OVC Public Relations
519-824-4120, Ext. 54414

Brenda Coomber
Department of Biomedical Sciences
519-824-4120, Ext. 54922

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1