National Canine Cancer Foundation to fund a new innovative Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) Research Project

June 19th, 2014

I have some new exciting news. As you all know we are always trying to find an new edge in the battle against canine cancer. And Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is one of those cancers we would like to get a better handle on since it seems to end up being diagnosed too late to save the dog. In fact, we are so keen on finding out how to deal with HSA that we have actually initiated our own research project on HSA with G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. This is very exciting for the NCCF because this type of research on HSA has never been tried. Let me tell you how it all came about by first talking about a dog name Batman.

Batman was the first dog to undergo a breakthrough experimental treatment for brain cancer, led by doctors, G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. They developed a combination treatment plan for dogs with glioma, a very aggressive and relatively common form of brain cancer. First they removed the tumor surgically. Then, in some cases, they use local gene therapy to attract immune cells to destroy remaining tumor cells, and finally they created a personalized anti-cancer vaccine made from the dog’s own cancer cells to prevent tumor recurrence.

I personally love the thought of taking a cancer that was killing a dog and turning it into a personalized vaccine to kill the cancer!

Dr. Pluhar, a surgeon at the Veterinary Medical Center, and Dr. Ohlfest, head of the neurosurgery gene therapy program at the Masonic Cancer Center, gave Batman his initial treatment in August 2008. Batman led a normal life unaffected by his tumor until his death from cardiac failure in February 2010, there was no tumor recurrence. According to the Dean of the College, Trevor Ames, DVM, MS, “the far-reaching implications of this promising new treatment are almost difficult to fathom; not only could these treatments lead to a cure for brain and other systemic cancers in dogs, but because dogs and humans share many physiological traits, dogs could also be the missing link in the cure for brain cancer in humans.”

Then something interesting happened. Almost one year ago, Davis Hawn’s then 8-year-old yellow lab, Booster, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his nasal sinus. Booster was given three weeks to live. Hawn did not want to accept the death sentence and began searching the country for a cure. His search led him to doctors in Florida who removed Booster’s tumor and gave him chemo. An online search then led him to Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar from the University of Minnesota’s canine brain tumor clinical program. Davis asked her to help his dog, but Dr. Pluhar had never made a vaccine for this type of cancer before. But Davis was not going to take no for an answer so she did agree to try. She shipped the vaccine off and ten months later Booster is cancer free.

Then after Davis contacted the NCCF to tell us about how well the vaccine works, we contacted Dr. Pluhar to ask if she would be willing to try the same research that was successful with brain cancer and skin cancer, and use the same protocol to try dealing with splenic HSA. The NCCF’s thinking is that with all these other cancers, the similarities were that the cancer had to be removed and a vaccine needed to be created from the cancer cells. With splenic HSA, one of the more common forms of HSA, the spleen is typically removed so we felt that Dr. Pluhar’s research could possibly work. With that in mind, we asked her if she could try and apply her protocol on splenic HSA. After doing some initial research she agreed to do the study based on reaching certain goals before going on to the next level.

First, she needs to insure that we can culture the cancer cells in the lab,

Second, she needs to insure that the tumor vaccines stimulate immune cells to attack tumor cells. If she can achieve these two steps she can go on to treat the HSA cancer. We could not be happier and are guardedly optimistic over this research project.

The cost for this project will be $55,500. I hope you are all as excited as we are about this research and will help fund the project. If you want to help with funding this new innovative NCCF’s initiated project please CLICK HERE or got to this link

Thank you

Gary D. Nice
President and Founder
National Canine Cancer Foundation

Study reveals possible biological trigger for canine bone cancer

March 2nd, 2015

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) have identified the biological mechanism that may give some cancer cells the ability to form tumors in dogs.

The recent study uncovered an association between the increased expression of a particular gene in tumor cells and more aggressive behavior in a form of canine bone cancer. It may also have implications for human cancers by detailing a new pathway for tumor formation.

Photo: Nik Hawkins

The findings, published online this month in the journal Veterinary and Comparative Oncology, may eventually provide oncologists with another target for therapy and improve outcomes for canine patients with the disease.

The researchers examined cell lines generated from dogs with osteosarcoma, a common bone cancer that also affects people, with the intent of uncovering why only some cells generate tumors. After the dogs underwent tumor-removal surgery at UW Veterinary Care — the SVM’s veterinary medical teaching hospital — cells from the tumors were grown in the lab.

This led to six different cancer cell lines, which were then transplanted into mice. The researchers then looked to see which lines developed tumors and which did not and studied the differences between them.

“We found several hundred genes that expressed differently between the tumor-forming and nontumor-forming cell lines,” says Timothy Stein, an assistant professor of oncology. However, one protein called frizzled-6 was present at levels eight times higher in cells that formed tumors.

In the complicated process of gene expression, the genetic information encoded within DNA is eventually converted into RNA and proteins, which are responsible for a variety of vital cellular functions. Frizzled-6 plays a key role in relaying signals from the outside to the inside of a cell, acting as a sort of receiving dock for particular types of information.

Molecular connections like this activate pathways, some of which regulate the growth, differentiation and migration of cells when working properly. But when pathways go awry, they may contribute to the development of tumors and tumor-initiating cells. The role of frizzled-6 in this process is not yet fully understood.

“It’s exciting because it’s kind of uncharted territory,” says Stein, who is also a member of the UW Carbone Cancer Center. “While we need more research to know for sure, it’s possible that frizzled-6 expression may be inhibiting a particular signaling pathway and contributing to the formation of tumor-initiating cells.”

The study is a good example of how work at UW Veterinary Care can lead to a better understanding of disease, Stein says, and it highlights how basic science can be a bridge to clinical research.

Lucas Rodrigues, lead author on the canine bone cancer study, replaces a culture medium in which cancer cells are grown.

“Now I’d like to see what this means clinically,” he says. “Does frizzled-6 serve as a marker of a more aggressive disease? Will it help us improve the accuracy of our prognoses? These are the questions we want to answer.”

Stein also hopes to continue this line of research in human cancer patients. Meanwhile, the lead author on the study, Lucas Rodrigues, is continuing the investigation in dogs.

“Now we want to make sure that frizzled-6 is truly what gives these cells the ability to form new tumors,” says Rodrigues, a postdoctoral fellow in Stein’s lab.

While frizzled-6 may be the lone culprit, it is possible that a combination of multiple genes may lead to tumor formation, says Rodrigues.

The study was also co-authored by Victoria Thompson, an associate research specialist; Katie Holmes, a 2014 graduate of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program; and Michael Newton, a professor in the Departments of Statistics and Biostatistics and Medical Informatics.

Article reposted from:
By Nik Hawkins

Do Spayed and Neutered Dogs Get Cancer More Often?

February 27th, 2015

Where I live, in America, it’s taken for granted that responsible owners spay or neuter their dogs. The population of homeless animals is still large enough that risking an unwanted litter is, to many owners, unthinkable. And spay/neuter is just what people do. But two papers were published, in 2013 and 2014, suggesting that these widely accepted surgical procedures may lead to increased long-term risk of certain kinds of cancers. These studies ignited a debate which had been smouldering for years: are there unwanted health consequences associated with altering a dog’s levels of estrogen or testosterone?

Image Credit: Rob Kleine

The 2013 paper looked at Golden Retrievers. The authors reviewed data from veterinary hospitals, comparing Goldens who were diagnosed with various diseases, those who were not, and the spay/neuter status of each group; they found a correlation between spaying or neutering and cancers such as osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell cancer. The 2014 paper used a voluntary Internet-based survey to perform a similar investigation in the Vizsla breed. They also found correlations between spay/neuter status and mast cell cancer, hemangiosarcoma, and lymphoma.

These are scary results, but I caution that studying the causes of multi-factorial diseases like cancer is incredibly challenging. Take the Golden Retriever study, a retrospective study using data from a veterinary referral hospital. This study was limited to dogs whose owners chose to bring them to a relatively expensive referral hospital. This is the kind of place where you take your pet when he has cancer and you are willing to spend a fair amount of money to help him. As a result, this hospital’s records probably provide a great source of data on companion animals living with concerned owners, particularly owners who have provided excellent medical care for much or all of the animal’s life. However, this hospital’s records are less likely to provide data on animals whose owners have provided sub-optimal care. This kind of bias in sample selection can have a significant effect on the findings drawn from the data.

The Vizsla study used an Internet-based survey instead of hospital records. Like the Golden Retriever study, this study could have found itself with a biased sample of very committed dog owners, in this case owners who engaged in dog-focused communities online and who had enough concern about the health of the breed to fill out a survey. This study additionally suffered from a lack of verified data; owners were asked to give medical details about their dogs and may have misremembered or misinterpreted a past diagnosis.

Don’t get me wrong – these were both important studies, and they did their best with the available resources. I applaud both sets of authors for putting this information out there. But the studies both have their limitations, which makes their findings difficult to trust or generalize to other populations of dogs.

Meanwhile, another 2013 study presented some other interesting results. This study drew data from multiple referral hospitals to determine the causes of death in spayed or neutered versus intact dogs – and they found that spayed and neutered dogs, on average, lived longer than intact dogs. Intact dogs were more likely to die of infectious disease or trauma, while spayed or neutered dogs were more likely to die of immune-mediated diseases or (again) cancer. In other words, while spayed or neutered dogs did get cancer, it didn’t seem to shorten their lifespans.

This study shed a new light on the cancer question. It suggested that perhaps spayed or neutered animals might be more likely to get cancer simply because they were living long enough to get it. Intact animals were more likely to die younger, perhaps simply not aging into the time of life when the risk of cancer rises.

So where does that leave us? Is there a causal link between spaying/neutering and cancer? I think the question is still wide open. What we really need is a study that follows animals forward throughout their lifetimes instead of using retrospective records or surveys to get the data – and, thanks to Morris Animal Foundation’s groundbreaking Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, we are getting just that. This study is enrolling Goldens as puppies and following their health over the course of their lives. It will be years before the study gives us answers, but it provides hope for more solid data. (Of course, it still can’t address the issue of bias, in that owners who enroll their puppies in this study could be highly responsible dog owners who provide excellent medical care!)

We can, however, do something about cancer in dogs without waiting for the results of that study. It is no coincidence that two of the studies discussed here investigated Golden Retrievers. Sixty percent of Golden Retrievers will die of cancer. That is indisputably a problem with the genetics of the breed, and other breeds suffer from similar problems. We should be attacking cancer on all fronts, and this is a front we don’t have to study first. Golden Retriever breeders are between a rock and a hard place, trying to breed for health in a gene pool which doesn’t have enough genetic diversity to support it. The solution is to bring in new blood from gene pools with much lower risk of cancer, breeding dogs who don’t look like purebred Goldens for a few generations to revitalize the breed as a whole. Genetics contribute far more to risk of cancer than whether an animal is spayed or neutered. We clearly have a strong desire as a society to reduce the incidence of cancer in Golden Retrievers and other breeds. While we’re studying risk from spaying and neutering, let’s address the genetics question that we know we can fix.

(The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.)

Article reposted from:
Jessica P. Hekman

Torres de la Riva G, Hart BL, Farver TB, et al. Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers. PLoS ONE 2013.
Zink MC, Farhoody P, Elser SE, et al. Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2014;244:309–319. [Paywalled]
Hoffman JM, Creevy KE, Promislow DEL. Reproductive Capability Is Associated with Lifespan and Cause of Death in Companion Dogs. PLoS ONE 2013.

Making the final decision for a pet

February 25th, 2015

Comedian Louie C.K. once said, getting a pet is a “countdown to sorrow.” He was referring to the inevitable loss we experience when our pets, who have shorter lifespans, die long before we do. So we wonder why we bring pets into our lives at all.

We do it because pets add to our happiness and joy. Their playful nature and unconditional love rank tops in improving our health and lifting our spirits. And let’s face it; it’s much easier to let the worries of the world fall away when there is a wagging tail or gentle purr nudging you for affection each day.

All the joys also mean all the responsibilities, including making “the decision” about when to end your pet’s life. People often ask me, “How will I know when it’s time?” I have made that decision nearly a dozen times in my adult life and the process of “when” to do it never gets any easier.

Photo: Marvin Pfeiffer/ Express-News

(Kim Buck, DVM (right) euthanizes a cat with the help of pet nurse David Roberts.)

While I have become better at recognizing the signs of a pet in the end stages of life, most pets are great at hiding illness until it’s too late. So sometimes you may be looking for modern medicine to extend your pet’s life, and sometimes you may find your pet has no other options.

Recently, my 20-year-old cat, Miss Kitty, had to be euthanized. She seemed fine the day before, but didn’t want to move from her spot the next morning. Blood work indicated she was bleeding internally, likely from a gastric mass, likely cancer.

There are treatments for pet cancer, but not much hope for a 20-year-old cat with a severe heart murmur who was bleeding internally and could have a stroke or heart attack at any moment. Under the circumstances, the decision was easy to make, but not necessarily easy to handle.

A few weeks ago, a friend with a 9-year-old golden retriever confessed she had never experienced pet loss before. Lucky was her first pet and she was a little scared. I explained aging was not an illness and that her dog, although a little more laid-back, was still quite healthy.

Veterinarians, however, recommend two visits a year for senior pets so they can catch and treat illnesses early, which can extend their lives. She plans to do that for her dog. And I will be her support when the day finally comes when she has to let Lucky go.

Sadly, my 12-year-old dog, Maggie, was diagnosed with cancer, too. That’s what happens when you have senior pets in your home. Modern medicine gives us the chance to extend our pets’ lives a little, but in the end, all pet owners face the same painful decision of when to let them go.

Article reposted from:
By Cathy M. Rosenthal

Phase II Study of Drug In Canine Lymphoma

February 24th, 2015

Oasmia Pharmaceutical AB announced today that the company has initiated a clinical Phase II study of Doxophos Vet for the treatment of canine lymphoma.

This study will be conducted at two clinics in the United States and Sweden, respectively. It includes five dose cycles of Doxophos Vet, which contains the active ingredient in doxorubicin, a commonly used chemotherapy drug in humans.

The primary endpoint is the response rate in the treated dogs after five cycles.

CEO of Oasmia said study is an important step for veterinarians

”The continued development of this unique pharmaceutical is an important step for us, and for all dog owners,” said Julian Aleksov, CEO of Oasmia. “It is also an important step for veterinarians, since Doxophos Vet will be a treatment for dogs evaluated on dogs.”

”With Doxophos Vet, we can have a pharmaceutical which is specialized for dogs with this very common type of cancer,” said Aleksov.

Currently there is no specialized veterinary treatment for canine lymphoma.

News reposted from:
By Ross Bonander
Source: Globe News Wire
Photo by Luke Ma

Love to the Max: Texas A&M veterinarians help a family through the pain of canine cancer

February 23rd, 2015

Upon entering the Bhatia home in Houston, it’s apparent that the family dog, Maxamillion, is as much a thread in the fabric of the household as his human counterparts.

With an energetic tail and a doggy smile, Max is the first to greet any guest. In nearly every framed photo in the home, he poses for the camera. And, as his mom Gina Bhatia will tell you, it is required that Max go on almost all family vacations within driving distance. For the past eight years, Max has been part of the family, beginning on the day Gina Bhatia and her husband, Devinder, bid on the black Labrador puppy at a school charity auction.

“My husband kept on bidding until he was ours. I was dressed in a ball gown, and they handed over this precious pooch,” she laughed. “We had a new baby, a toddler, a freshman in high school, and our house was under renovations. I looked at my husband like, ‘What did we just do?’”

The Bhatias didn’t question their decision long. Max took hold of their hearts almost instantly.

When Max was five years old, his health took a sudden turn. During a family vacation, one that Max didn’t go on, Bhatia received a call from the boarder. “They said that Max was not himself at all, that he had started limping and was acting lethargic,” Bhatia explained. So she ended the trip early and headed home in order to take Max to his local veterinarian, Dr. Alice Anne Dodge, in Houston. While there, she found out that Max was suffering from an autoimmune disease and polyarthritis. After weeks of tests and different medications, he was not getting any better. At that point, his veterinarian recommended that he be taken to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at Texas A&M University.

“He had tons of blood tests, scans, X-rays—you name it, they did it,” said Bhatia. “He wasn’t walking, and his platelet levels dropped dangerously low.”

The Texas A&M veterinarians figured out the plan of attack, giving Max a round of chemotherapy and a litany of other medications. Over the next six months, many visits to Texas A&M, and seven different medicines, Max’s condition improved tremendously. The Bhatias were overjoyed.

A dreaded diagnosis:

For years, Max showed no sign of his previous illness. Although his energy never returned to its original puppy-like volume, Max was back to being Max.

Then, last April, Bhatia noticed Max limping. She returned to Dr. Dodge, where she left him to undergo a series of tests. For the entire day, Bhatia waited by the phone, nervous about the news she would receive. When she finally got the call at the end of the day to come pick up Max, she knew the news wasn’t good. “When I went in, I was sitting in the exam room with Max, and the doctor came in and said, ‘I hope I’m wrong, but I think he has osteosarcoma.’”

With the overwhelming news of cancer, Bhatia left Dodge’s office heartbroken, afraid her days with her beloved pet were numbered.

After consulting with her husband, a heart surgeon, Bhatia knew that the best course of action would once again involve Texas A&M. She drove Max back to College Station two days later, where Dr. Claudia Barton and the rest of the oncology team did more testing and a biopsy to confirm an aggressive form of cancer called osteosarcoma. Dr. Rita Ho, Dr. Megan Sutton, Dr. Kelly Theiman Mankin, and Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles, together with Barton, gave her several treatment options. One option was to amputate Max’s front left leg and administer six rounds of chemotherapy, and another treatment option would allow him to keep his leg and undergo radiation. The former option meant drastic changes for Max’s future but a longer life, while the latter option was less invasive but wouldn’t completely eliminate his pain.

“It took me a good week to figure out what to do,” Bhatia said. “I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. In my mind, the thought of amputation was such an aggressive approach. The thing that kept me going was that they do this surgery a lot, that it’s fairly common with big dogs. Plus, the veterinarians assured me that Max has such a great spirit, they knew that he would do fantastic. Once I discussed it again with my husband and children, we knew he was going to be a survivor.”

With encouragement from the veterinarians at Texas A&M, Bhatia made peace with her decision to move forward with the amputation. They were careful to explain every scenario to Bhatia—“the good, the bad, and the ugly.” She felt that all of the veterinarians and students formed a bond with Max that assured her he was in good hands.

“Before I got him home, on the night of his surgery, they called me, and I was just blown away. They told me he was doing great and that he was already walking!”

Within two weeks, Max had completely adapted to his new body. Bhatia’s children, Mia and Drake, were able to play with their dog in the backyard, just like old times.

“Max is just the best gift from God. He gives us so much,” Bhatia said. “If you have a sick pet and are considering the veterinarian school at Texas A&M, don’t think twice about it. Get in your car and go right now. They are the best, and I’m forever grateful.”

Editor’s note: As this issue was going to print, Max lost his battle with cancer. However, the Bhatia family is still very grateful for the extra time they were able to spend with their beloved dog.

Story reposted from:
By Megan Palsa

Dog's successful surgery sets stage for treating humans

February 20th, 2015

Almost five years ago, a 7-year-old Labrador retriever was operated on using a technique eventually patented by Virginia Tech biomedical engineering faculty member Rafael Davalos. The beloved family pet suffer from a cancerous mass in the brain, and all other forms of medical treatment had been exhausted. The operation eradicated the malignant tumor, and follow up examinations proved the procedure’s success.

The team’s findings were reported in the Feb. 14, 2011, issue of the Journal of Technology Cancer Research and Treatment, and, since the surgery, the investigators have continued experiments and mathematical modeling techniques that are leading toward effective treatments for humans with glioblastoma, the most common and deadly malignant brain tumor.

Today, the National Cancer Institute awarded one of Davalos’ colleagues, Scott Verbridge, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics at Virginia Tech, a $386,149 research grant to take a related medical procedure a step closer to using on humans. Verbridge will lead a team that includes Davalos and focus on targeting and destroying the most therapy-resistant infiltrative cells in malignant glioma.

Glioblastoma is the “most common and deadly malignant primary brain tumor, and it is almost universally fatal, with a five-year survival rate of less than 5 percent,” Verbridge said. “This statistic has not improved significantly in decades, and there is still no treatment option to preferentially target the glioma stem cells or diffuse infiltrative cells that lead to tumor recurrence after surgery, chemo, or radiotherapy.”

Davalos’ technique used on the canine patient is called irreversible electroporation. The investigators propose in the current project that these pulses can be tuned “to target the unique physical properties of malignant cells,” Verbridge said.

By contrast, chemotherapy and radiation used to reduce or eliminate cancerous cells are not discriminatory and also affect healthy cells.

Clinical trials using the irreversible electroporation procedure have occurred in the treatment of liver, kidney, pancreatic, and lung cancer.

“The procedure is essentially done with two minimally invasive electrodes placed into the targeted region, delivering approximately 80 pulses to the site in about one minute. The pulses are high voltage but low energy, so no significant heating occurs as a result of the procedure,” Davalos said.

Pulse duration is significant in this process. Earlier studies have demonstrated that length of the pulse accounts for the dead cell lesion size, and the current work will explore the impact of varying these parameters on the response of different cell types within gliomas.

In addition to researching the response of cell lines, experiments also will include patient-derived cells harvested by colleagues at the Wake Forest University and The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Centers. The researchers plan to build three-dimensional in vitro tumors using these patient-derived cells. They then will characterize the response of the most highly aggressive tumor cell populations, in physiologically relevant tissue models, to these electric field therapies. Using live staining techniques and confocal microscopy, the researchers will be able to measure real-time responses of the cells to the irreversible electroporation.

“We believe our studies will provide a significant advancement in our understanding of glioma biology and point to new treatment possibilities,” said Verbridge, who conducted postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Cornell University Physical Sciences in Oncology Center. Verbridge also is a principal investigator on an additional NIH-funded project investigating glioma transcriptional dynamics, in collaboration with Chang Lu of Virginia Tech’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

Article reposted from:
By Lynn A Nystrom
Provided by Virginia Tech

2nd Annual Gulliver's Run Trounces Canine Cancer

February 19th, 2015

A partnership that began 2 years ago in helping each other launch Gulliver’s Run and continues to grow as we fight canine cancer together!

Year Two of “Gulliver’s Run” was another “pawmark” of success! Our human field doubled as did our canine field and people continue to support and encourage us with many kind words. Dogs just keep on having a great day out with their human companions and helped us raise $7600 for the National Canine Cancer Foundation!

Race day 2014 was bright, sunny, and extremely windy, destroying one of our registration booths!  But our passionate participants came out with their dogs just the same. As a result of the large increase in runners they even put up with a shortage of restrooms, dogs didn’t have this problem.

This has already been corrected for our November 1, 2015 race as we expect even greater numbers.

Thanks to our great volunteers we were able to get around and talk to our runners and supporters about “Gulliver’s Run” and fighting canine cancer, while petting my share of dogs along the way.

Helping dogs and their families carry on that fight is the driving force behind our efforts to put on a special and enduring event. We met a number of people who took a moment to tell us their stories about a beloved canine friend and how the specter of canine cancer had marked their hearts. As I looked at each of those people through my own tear-clouded eyes (maybe it was the wind) I became more determined to continue our mutual battle through “Gulliver’s Run” for many years to come!

It is, at times, an exhausting and nerve-wracking process to put together a running event. We strive to make “Gulliver’s Run” a quality event for all who choose to join us. It is hard work, but the reward of knowing that our efforts and the efforts of all who come out for “Gulliver’s Run” do count for something in the fight against canine cancer makes it all worthwhile.

I believe that people do want a way to fight back against something that has changed them in the manner that the experience of facing canine cancer with a dear canine friend has done. We believe that our vision of founding and carrying out the annual event of “Gulliver’s Run” will enable others to do so.

Gulliver lives on through the trail run that now bears his name. We are humbled and thankful for the association that it enables us to have with so many others who know what it is to share their hearts and homes with a special canine friend. May each year bring more of us together! Thank you all so much for believing in us!

See you on the trails November 1, 2015 for Gulliver’s Run 3!

Together—We are the cure!
John & Lisa

Photo courtesy: NaterPix

Artist paints pet portraits to raise money for cancer-stricken dog

February 16th, 2015

Shaun Mitchell deeply understood his own love for his cancer-stricken dog Charlie, but he was astonished to discover the depth of feeling shown by strangers.

Last June, the 5-year-old boxer was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma and has been receiving treatment since that time. Although Mitchell and his wife Tasha have pet insurance, out-of-pocket expenses have been high, so Mitchell, a self-taught artist, decided he would offer up his artistic talents by painting portraits of other people’s pets in an effort to raise money for Charlie’s treatments.

“I thought maybe if I’m lucky, five or ten people would be interested,” Mitchell said.

Within four days of Tasha posting the information on Facebook, Mitchell has received nearly 160 requests from all over the world.

“After the responses I got, it left me speechless. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude,” he said. “People email me a picture of their pet so I can use it to paint the portrait, and some of them attach their stories for me to read. Some of them, what they’ve gone through and what they’ve done for their pet is so moving.”

Mitchell uses watercolors, acrylics, water-based oils, charcoal and pencil to create his work. As a child, he said he used to “doodle” a lot with paints and became more serious about it as an adult.

Lisa LaRue of Ogden has asked Mitchell to paint a portrait of her dog, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a Rottweiler who died of cancer last fall at the age of 10.

“When I saw it on Facebook I thought it was an awesome idea,” LaRue said. “I just felt this would be a great way to honor my dog while helping the Mitchells raise money to save theirs. It’s a very hard and emotional thing to go through when you lose a pet. I will put the painting of her somewhere that everyone can see, probably in the living room.”

After Charlie’s diagnosis, he underwent a round of chemotherapy. Five months later, he was in clinical remission. However, the cancer returned.

“It was very scary. His lymph nodes were the size of golf balls,” Mitchell said.

More chemotherapy was done, but Charlie wasn’t responding well. Then the couple learned of a new treatment that just came out of clinical trials. The only catch: it’s only being offered in Las Vegas or Denver.

“They are hoping to get it here eventually, but treatment has only been out of trials for eight weeks, so for now we had the choice of going to Vegas or Denver, so we decided to go to Vegas” Mitchell said. “He’s had one treatment and so far his body is responding really well. In fact, the doctor told us if he didn’t know Charlie had cancer he would never be able to tell, so we are hoping Charlie will be pioneering possible treatments for other dogs in the future. It gives us hope.”

Mitchell said he will paint as many portraits as people want to send him. He doesn’t just paint dogs. He’ll paint cats, horses and other family pets as well. As long as you’re patient, Mitchell said he will get the job done. He charges $40 for an 8×10 painting and asks for no money up front.

“I want people to be happy with the end product,” Mitchell said. “I want to be good enough that when people see their painting, they will get that warm fuzzy feeling inside. I’m working on a rush order right now of a family whose bulldog passed away last year at this time. They are honoring me by asking me to paint a memorial picture for them. It really stirs my emotions.”

To view Mitchell’s Facebook page, go to
You can email him at to place an order.

News reposted from:
By Jamie Lampros

This dog video will put you in the Valentine spirit

February 15th, 2015

The saying that a dog is man’s best friend rings true, but more than that, dogs can bring people together.

A common love for dogs can spark a conversation between complete strangers in a park. It can bring together a group of friends that might have never met under different circumstances. Some couples even treat their dog like their own child (practice before they actually have a kid).

There are dog and pet lover groups on Facebook that bring together over tens of thousands of people on the Internet to discuss proper pet care, training, health, plan activities, and just to share pictures of their beloved dogs being their cute selves.

When we can, we bring our dogs everywhere. No longer limited to staying at home and going on walks in the parks and villages, even malls have begun opening their doors to our four-legged friends.

February is a month to celebrate love and not only on Valentine’s Day or to a specific significant other, family member, or friend. We are reminded that love is a universal language and one that even extends to other species, specifically our furry and loyal best friends.

Watch the heart-melting video above and remember the ones who are always wagging their tails excited to greet you after a long day at work. The ones that have the ability to calm you and make you smile even after the most stressful of days. Remember the ones who will cuddle with you at night and look at you longingly with sad eyes as you leave the house for school or work. This will remind you of their love and how this is a good time to show them how much we love them back.

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