CHICAGO - The Puppy Up foundation is working to help find cancer treatments for both pets and humans.
Pets develop many of the same types of cancer - brain, bone, lung and breast - as humans. The foundation is funding studies to help find treatment for pets, which could ultimately benefit humans.
When founder Luke Robinson lost his Great Pyrenees, Malcolm, to cancer several years ago, he backpacked thousands of miles with his other dogs to educate people and raise awareness about cancer in dogs.
"It inspired me to start a foundation to try to figure out why dogs get cancer just like people get," Robinson said.
Puppy Up was created from that initial walk several years ago. Now, there are walks all over the country - including one on Saturday in Chicago -- to raise money for research in comparative oncology - finding the connection between canine and human cancer.
"They're doing a study on a drug called Pac-1 which was studied for dogs with bone cancer, osteosarcoma, but it turns out Pac-1 crosses the blood brain barrier and reaches the brain better than many drugs and it's now in clinical studies for people with brain cancer," said Dr. Roberta Portela, a veterinary oncologist, Premier Veterinary Group Chicago.
Each year about six million dogs nationwide will be diagnosed with cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, just as with humans, it doesn't have to be a death sentence.
Dog Gizmo is a cancer survivor. A malignant tumor was removed from her spleen two years ago and she's been on chemo ever since.
"What are we doing that she's still here with us and somebody else's isn't, so I think that all the information, all this data will really, really help us to find a link between human and canine," said Jennifer Lucotti, Gizmo's owner.
"A cancer diagnosis doesn't mean your dog has an expiration date. There's hope," she said.
Dog Cadence was only 6 years old when owner Heather Neal found a lump on the dog's rear leg. Her vet suspected cancer.
"Saw oncologist, two days later amputated the leg. The biopsy was done post amputation, it was definitely osteosarcoma and she had a high grade, so it was not a very good prognosis," Neal said.
But after chemo and a switch to a raw diet, Cadence will be 13 years old next month and gets around pretty well.
The Puppy Up foundation helps to fund clinical trials for dogs, but this is not animal testing. It's the same as clinical trials for humans - a cancer patient wants to try a new drug that's being tested to see if it helps.
The inaugural Chicago Puppy Up 2-mile walk will be held 10 a.m. Saturday at Montrose Harbor.
For more information, visit: http://www.puppyup.org/