Sale of Clarion BMW Nets $125,000 for TGen Research

Clarion’s modernized classic 1974 BMW raises $125,000 for TGen cancer research

First ‘Clarion Builds’ restoration vehicle auctioned by Barrett-Jackson to support early diagnosis and treatment

CYPRESS, Calif. —  Clarion Corporation of America announced today that the sale of its first Clarion Builds vehicle restoration, an iconic 1974 BMW model 2002, raised $125,000 for cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

The fjord-blue Beemer sold April 9 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Palm Beach, Fla., with all proceeds donated to the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen, in Memory of Russ and Brian Jackson. The fund, established in 2010, is a salute to auction Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson’s father, Russ — one of the founders of Barrett-Jackson — and brother, Brian, whose lives were cut short by colon cancer.

“We are beyond pleased with the generous donation earned from Barrett-Jackson’s charity auction sale of Clarion’s fully restored 1974 BMW 2002,” said Michael Bassoff, President of TGen Foundation. “All $125,000 received from the sale of the car will go toward advancing our research in applying translational genomics to the early detection and treatment of cancer. We are grateful to Clarion and their Clarion Builds partners for recreating such an iconic piece of automotive history and donating it to benefit the patients we serve.”

Clarion’s next Clarion Builds project car, a beautifully restored and tastefully modified first-year Acura NSX will be on display at Clarion’s booth during Barrett-Jackson’s January 2017 auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., and is scheduled to cross the block at a subsequent Barrett-Jackson auction later next year.

“Barrett-Jackson began as a charity fundraiser and giving back to the community has long been a pillar of our company,” said Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. “We’ve helped raise more than $89 million for deserving charities over the years and we couldn’t do it without the help of partners like Clarion. TGen has had a longstanding relationship with Barrett-Jackson and is a cause very close to my heart. I’m proud that the sale of the 1974 BMW 2002 went to benefit the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen and I’m excited to further our relationship as the official auction partner for the Clarion Builds program.”

“From the beginning, we were determined to develop the Clarion Builds program into an industry benchmark. It is especially rewarding to look back at our achievements of the past two years as we have irrevocably delivered upon all our goals,” stated Allen H. Gharapetian, vice president of marketing and product development for Clarion Corporation of America and chief of the Clarion Builds program.

“From bringing a true automotive legend back to life and pulling millions of fans and followers together across the globe who celebrated this amazing project, to raising a significant sum of money for a worthy cause, Clarion Builds has set a new standard. None of this would have mattered without the support from Barrett-Jackson, who shares our passion of philanthropy, and the avant-garde life saving research being conducted at TGen. Both Barrett-Jackson and TGen were indisputably instrumental in delivering a grand finale worthy of our iconic BMW 2002,” Gharapetian said.

To learn more about the Clarion Builds program, or to follow the build of iconic classic cars, visit Clarion Builds at or watch the latest Clarion Builds videos at


TGen TEDx Presents Hope for Brain Cancer

TGen Deputy Director presents “A Visit to the Brain” at TEDx Talk in Arizona

Dr. Michael Berens among a dozen speakers April 30 urging ‘Act Today … Change Tomorrow’ at first TEDxArrowheadRanch event

GLENDALE, Ariz. —Dr. Michael Berens, Deputy Director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), will present “A Visit to the Brain” at the first TEDxArrowheadRanch, part of the TED Talks series that enable unique ideas and passions to be shared worldwide.

Dr. Berens will join a dozen other speakers under the theme “Act Today … Change Tomorrow,” emphasizing the power and lasting effect that one person, one voice, one action, one choice, one question today can have on our society and our world tomorrow.

TEDxArrowheadRanch is set for 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 30 at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, AT&T Auditorium, 59th Avenue and Greenway Road in Glendale, Ariz. Tickets are $45-$60.

“We believe spreading worthwhile ideas and sharing unique stories have the power to inspire and connect us to our communities and beyond,” said Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, lead organizer and curator of TEDxArrowheadRanch.

Dr. Berens will speak about: “A visit to the brain, its structure and composition, and what happens when brain cells turn malignant. What are better ways to control brain tumors? By acting today, how can affected individuals and their families help change tomorrow for future victims of this disease?

“This is certainly a unique opportunity for us at TGen to inform the world about advances being made in our laboratories, and how they are quickly being translated to patients in the form of new diagnostics and treatments for neurological disorders, pathogens, and the many types of cancer that plague humanity,” said Dr. Berens, who also is Professor and Director of TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division.

Dr. Berens’ research focuses on how cancer spreads. Specific projects include: accelerating drug discovery and development for glioblastoma, a lethal form of brain cancer; use of genomic profiling for treatment planning in cancer patients, also known as Precision Medicine; and biomarkers of tumor response to therapy. Dr. Berens holds four patents, has launched two biotech companies, and is active in the entrepreneurial and business development community in Arizona.

What are TED and TEDxArrowheadRanch?

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. It was started in 1984, and has become an annual event bringing together the world’s leading thinkers and doers, shaping our lives and ideas ever since. Over the years, TED has grown to include scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, social activists, adventurers, and leaders in all disciplines, all sharing their ideas and passions with the world through the TED stage. The most inspiring and powerful of these TED Talks can be found online at

In the spirit of “ideas worth spreading,” TED created TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, live speakers and TED Talk videos, combined with musical and artistic performances, offer a setting and opportunity to learn, discuss, and connect.

TEDxArrowheadRanch is a non-profit, independently organized TED event.

“I am extremely proud of the program my team and I have put together for the first TEDxArrowheadRanch. The hope is that it becomes a local forum for ideas within the Arizona community that inspires people to change their lives, their futures and, ultimately, their world. There is an abundance of valuable ‘ideas worth spreading’ right here in Arizona,” said Dr. Tipirneni, an emergency physician and Scientific Review Officer at SRA International. “Our local TEDx Talks eventually will be available online, and may even be selected to be posted on”

TGen Begins Grand Slam Cancer Study

TGen researchers go to bat for cancer patients in two innovative clinical trials for pancreatic cancer patients

Mattress Firm-funded trials seek to shrink tumors in advanced cases

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pairing new combinations of drugs to shrink pancreatic cancer tumors, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and HonorHealth Research Institute have launched a pair of groundbreaking clinical studies.

The two studies, which are being funded in part thanks to a $1.5 million contribution to TGen from Mattress Firm, are relying on cutting-edge approaches to how new therapies are combined to determine the best way to treat the disease.

One of the two studies, known as the Grand Slam, opened for enrollment today for its first group of patients. Grand Slam is a unique five-drug regimen that blends a combination of chemotherapy, immunotherapy and a special form of Vitamin D. It builds upon the positive findings from TGen Triple, the first of the two clinical trials, which paired three drugs and resulted in high percentage shrinkage of tumors for the patients that were treated.

“Both of these clinical trials are new stepping stones, building on previous TGen-led studies that have produced the current FDA-approved treatments for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, TGen Distinguished Professor and Physician-in-Chief, and Chief Scientific Officer for the HonorHealth Research Institute. Dr. Von Hoff is the architect of both studies. Dr. Erkut Borazanci and Gayle Jameson, N.P., both of HonorHealth and TGen, are the principal investigators for the studies.

TGen Triple uses two anti-cancer agents, gemcitabine and (albumin-bound) nab-paclitaxel, the current standard of care for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. It adds a third drug, platinum-based cisplatin, to boost its effectiveness.

Grand Slam, also known as the NAPPCG clinical trial, relies on those three chemotherapy drugs plus two additional elements: nivolumab, an immunotherapy drug designed to inhibit proteins that block the body’s immune system from attacking cancer cells, and paricalcitol, which is a Vitamin D derivative that researchers hope will extend patients’ survival. Dr. Von Hoff hopes this new trial will prove to be a significant next step in the treatment of this devastating disease that strikes so quickly and aggressively.

The clinical trials are taking place at HonorHealth in Scottsdale, and could expand to other facilities, including Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

Bristol Myers Squibb is providing the immunotherapy drug nivolumab, plus other partial support, for the Grand Slam clinical trial. Nivolumab, initially approved by the FDA in 2014 for treatment of advanced melanoma, and more recently lung cancer, works by inhibiting a protein called PD-1, which otherwise blocks the body’s immune system from attacking cancer cells.

Both studies are supported by funding from Mattress Firm, the nation’s largest bedding specialty retailer based in Houston, Texas, which is dedicated to stopping pancreatic cancer. This year, pancreatic cancer will kill nearly 42,000 Americans, surpassing breast cancer as the third-leading cause of cancer-related death. By 2020, it is predicted to surpass colon cancer to become the second-leading cause of cancer death; second only to lung cancer. Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent, the lowest among all cancer types in the U.S.

“Many of our colleagues, their families and friends have been affected by this terrible disease,” said Steve Stagner, Executive Chairman of Mattress Firm. “We are backing TGen in this extraordinary effort because we have a duty to be part of their incredible journey toward improving lives and finding a cure for pancreatic cancer.”

Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation, voiced high praise for Mattress Firm’s commitment to TGen research: “Steve Stagner, Ken Murphy, and the entire Mattress Firm team are bringing hope to thousands of patients and their families across the nation and around the world. Their latest contribution, and the launch of the Grand Slam trial, adds to the incredible legacy that this extraordinary company is building through its fight against pancreatic cancer.”

Patients seeking information about research studies may contact the HonorHealth Research Institute at 480-323-1339 or toll free at 1-877-273-3713, or

TGen Pioneers RNA Sequencing For Patient Care

Beyond DNA: TGen points the way to enhanced precision medicine with RNA sequencing

Deeper genetic analysis with RNA sequencing provides better diagnostics and treatments for patients with everything from cancer to deadly viruses

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Uncovering the genetic makeup of patients using DNA sequencing has in recent years provided physicians and their patients with a greater understanding of how best to diagnose and treat the diseases that plague humanity. This is the essence of precision medicine.

Now, researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) are showing how an even more detailed genetic analysis using RNA sequencing can vastly enhance that understanding, providing doctors and their patients with more precise tools to target the underlying causes of disease, and help recommend the best course of action.

In their review, published today in the journal Nature Reviews Genetics, TGen scientists highlight the many advantages of using RNA-sequencing in the detection and management of everything from cancer to infectious diseases, such as Ebola and the rapidly spreading Zika virus.

RNA’s principal role is to act as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA for the synthesis of proteins. Building on the insights provided by DNA profiling, the analysis of RNA provides an even more precise look at how cells behave and how medicine can intervene when things go wrong.

“RNA is a dynamic and diverse biomolecule with an essential role in numerous biological processes,” said Dr. Sara Byron, Research Assistant Professor in TGen’s Center for Translational Innovation, and the review’s lead author. “From a molecular diagnostic standpoint, RNA-based measurements have the potential for broad application across diverse areas of human health, including disease diagnosis, prognosis, and therapeutic selection.”

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequencing spells out —in order— the billions of chemical letters that make up the genes that drive all of our biologic make up and functions, from hair and eye color to whether an individual may be predisposed to cancer or other diseases.

RNA (ribonucleic acid) sequencing provides information on the genes that are actively being made into RNA in a cell and are important for cell function. While more complex, RNA holds the promise of more precise measurement of the human physical condition.

There simply are more forms, or species, that RNA takes, explains Dr. Byron. “RNA-sequencing provides an deeper view of a patient’s genome, revealing detailed information on the diverse spectrum of RNAs being expressed.”

One of the most promising aspects of RNA-based measurements is the potential of using extracellular RNA (exRNAs) as a non-invasive diagnostic indicator of disease. Monitoring exRNA simply takes a blood sample, as opposed to doing a tumor biopsy, which essentially is a minor surgery with greater risks and costs.

“The investigation of exRNAs in biofluids to monitor disease is an area of diagnostic research that is growing rapidly,” said Dr. Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen, TGen Associate Professor of Neurogenomics, Co-Director of TGen’s Center for Noninvasive Diagnostics, and one of the review’s authors. “Measurement of exRNA is appealing as a non-invasive method for monitoring disease. With increased access to biofluids, more frequent sampling can occur over time.”

The first test measuring exRNA was released earlier this year, the review said, for use measuring specific exRNAs in lung cancer patients. And, the potential for using RNA-seq in cancer is expanding rapidly. Commercial RNA-seq tests are now available, and provide the opportunity for clinicians to more comprehensively profile cancer and use this information to guide treatment selection for their patients, the review said.

In addition, the authors reported on several recent applications for RNA-seq in the diagnosis and management of infectious diseases, such as monitoring for drug resistant populations during therapy and tracking the origin and spread of the Ebola virus.

Using examples from discovery and clinical research, the authors also describe how RNA-seq can help guide interpretation of genomic DNA sequencing results. The utility of integrative sequencing strategies in research studies is growing across broad health applications, and points to the promise for incorporation of RNA-seq into clinical medicine, the review said.

The paper, Translating RNA-sequencing into Clinical Diagnostics: Opportunities and Challenges, was published online today in the journal Nature Reviews Genetics.

This review was funded by The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation of Scottsdale, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and a Stand Up To Cancer–Melanoma Research Alliance Melanoma Dream Team Translational Cancer Research Grant.

6th Annual Cycle for the Cure

Organizers add Chandler and Phoenix health clubs in May 1 quest to raise a record $200,000

PHOENIX, Ariz.  The 6th annual Cycle for the Cure on May 1 — one of the most exciting ways to support cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) — is bigger than ever for 2016.

Slots are quickly selling out for the 2-hour, heart-pumping indoor cycling events, hosted by the all four Village Health Clubs and Studio 360. Cycle for the Cure organizers hope to raise a record $200,000 this year, eclipsing the $182,000 raised for TGen cancer research in 2015.

Riding slots require a minimum $200 tax-deductible donation, and riders are encouraged to raise additional research funds.

Two locations have been added this year:
•    The recently opened Ocotillo Village Health Club & Spa, 4200 S. Alma School Road, Chandler; 8-10 a.m.
•    Studio 360, 3627 E. Indian School Road, #102, Phoenix; 12-2 p.m.

Returning sites are:
•    Gainey Village Health Club & Spa, 7477 E. Doubletree Ranch Road, Scottsdale; 8-10 a.m.
•    DC Ranch Village Health Club & Spa, 18501 N. Thompson Peak Parkway, Scottsdale; 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
•    Camelback Village Racquet & Health Club, 4444 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix; 3-5 p.m.

In addition, Cycle for the Cure this year includes yoga classes for $50 donations:
•    DC Ranch, 90-minute hot yoga; 10 a.m.
•    Camelback Village, 90-minute yoga; 3:30 p.m.

All locations welcome non-members to participate in Cycle for the Cure. Registration starts today, March 3, at Corporate sponsorships are available: Platinum, $7,500 and higher; Gold, $5,000; Silver, $2,500; and Bronze, $1,000.

A post-ride party for all participants from all the clubs will be hosted at Camelback Village at 5 p.m., following the last ride. It will feature a return musical performance by Nate Nathan and MacDaddy-o’s band, which was a huge hit last year. The party is free for riders; $20 donation for guests.

Using genomic sequencing, TGen helps doctors match the appropriate therapy to each patient’s DNA profile, producing the greatest patient benefit. This year, Cycle for the Cure is focused on raising research funds for work on a revolutionary diagnostic method called “liquid biopsies” — biomarkers in circulating blood — as a means of providing patients and their doctors with early detection of disease.

Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director, will be among TGen’s renowned scientists participating in Cycle for the Cure.

“Funds raised by Cycle for the Cure remain in Arizona for TGen research. Local research means local patients benefit first,” said Robyn DeBell, one of the event’s co-chairs. “Being involved in TGen is like having a sneak peak at the future of medicine.”

Cycle for the Cure is getting bigger and more exciting every year,” said Vicki Vaughn, the event’s other co-chair. “In supporting this event, the public not only supports TGen, but also supports the economic impact — now at $174 million annually — that TGen provides Arizona.”

“TGen is so very fortunate to have collaborative partners like the Village Health Clubs and to the dynamic volunteers like Robyn DeBell and Vicki Vaughn who work tirelessly to advance TGen’s research,” said TGen Foundation President Michael Bassoff. “Cycle for the Cure helps us provide hope and answers for cancer patients and their families who need our help today.”

Arizona Students to Hold Annual Brain Tumor Walk

Students Supporting Brain Tumor Research (SSBTR) is holding its annual walk-a-thon Saturday, Feb. 27 to raise money for research at Barrow and other institutions.

SSBTR is a nonprofit organization which formed in 2002 after three students from the Paradise Valley Unified School District were diagnosed with and ultimately succumbed to brain tumors.

Steve Glassman, the founder of the organization and then student council adviser at Pinnacle High School, organized the inaugural walk-a-thon with help from a small group of student volunteers.

The event attracted about 250 participants and raised $7,500. Ten years later, it drew more than 3,000 students and raised more than $215,000.

Ninety-three percent of every dollar raised by SSBTR goes directly to institutions that fund or conduct brain tumor research. In addition to Barrow, beneficiaries include Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the National Brain Tumor Society, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, and the Steele Children’s Research Center.

“These funds allowed us to open a new research direction – the use of the therapeutic ketogenic diet as a treatment for glioblastoma in addition to the standard of care, which includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation,” said Dr. Adrienne Scheck, whose laboratory at Barrow is dedicated to neuro-oncology research. “This work has been very successful and has led to the opening of a clinical trial for patients with glioblastoma. Without SSBTR, this would not have been possible.”

SSBTR President Dr. Wendy Kaye, a Valley pediatrician who became involved in the organization after losing her daughter to a brain tumor, said the organization consists of students from elementary school all the way up through medical school. She estimated that about 80 students help organize fundraising events.

Dr. Kaye said that in addition to supporting a cause, the students learn valuable career skills.

“The students really take the lead in running a nonprofit organization,” she said. “They’re expected to write a grant, solicit funds from corporations, and work with foundations. We really help them develop their leadership skills. Many of the co-chairs have gone into nonprofit management, public relations, medical school, and medical research.”

Dr. Kaye said the majority of the students involved in SSBTR have been affected by brain tumors in some way, with many students being survivors themselves.

“Our daughter asked us before she passed to please help other people and to try to find a cure for these problems,” she said. “It’s also to support people who are fighting and let them know that there are a lot of people behind them.”

The walk-a-thon will be held from noon to 3 p.m. at Saguaro High School, which is located at 6250 N. 82nd St. in Scottsdale. Gates open at 11 a.m. Register at the gate or online at

– See more at:

ASU Student Leaders Raise Funds for TGen Pancreatic Cancer Research

A small idea by two freshman students ignites campus awareness of TGen’s efforts to help cancer patients

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Feb. 15, 2016 — Students at Arizona State University have raised nearly $5,000 for pancreatic cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Led by Lambda Chi Alpha, eight Greek social groups at ASU bought t-shirts, held a dunk tank and decorated their Greek letters during “Hunt for a Cure” events in November, which is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

Today, members of the fraternity toured TGen to see how their fundraising dollars are being put to work.

The fundraising idea began with Race Carter and Braden Liu, two members of Lambda Chi Alpha. Carter and Liu hatched the idea while considering Liu’s fledgling t-shirt business, and the plight of another fraternity brother’s relative with pancreatic cancer.

“We started making all these connections. Purple is one of the colors of our fraternity. Purple is the color associated with pancreatic cancer. And the next month was Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month,” said Carter, 18, a Barrett Honors College freshman, majoring in Business.

“It was like it was supposed to happen,” said Carter, who felt that TGen, with one of the nation’s leading pancreatic cancer research units — TGen has led two Stand Up To Cancer Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team efforts — was the perfect organization to benefit from their philanthropy.

Carter and Liu took the idea to the leaders of Lambda Chi Alpha who jumped on board with the idea of holding a fundraising event. They enlisted the help of seven sororities, reached out to non-Greek students, and eventually sold nearly 600 t-shirts.

“Whoever is affected by pancreatic cancer is the real winner of this fundraising,” Carter said. “The researchers, the patients, everyone. It’s TGen that wins, and everyone that wins. And it’s not just the money. We need to get the message out there.”

Carter said he realizes that $5,000 may not make a huge difference in a research effort that costs tens of millions of dollars to pursue. But he and his fraternity brothers and students in the Greek system already have plans for similar events to benefit TGen in the future, and he is hoping the fundraisers snowball, building greater awareness about TGen across the ASU campus.

“We want to keep doing it every year!” he said.

Pancreatic cancer annually takes the lives of more than 40,000 Americans, making it the nation’s fourth leading cause of cancer-related death. Only 1 in 4 patients survive more than a year following diagnosis, and the 5-year survival rate is less than 10 percent for all patients. Pancreatic cancer can rapidly spread to distant organs, especially the liver and the lungs. Survival remains low, in part, because no early screening test exists.

TGen is working to develop early detection of pancreatic cancer and new treatments for patients.

“We heartily applaud the philanthropic leadership of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and the hundreds of young men and women at ASU who joined them in this fundraising effort,” said TGen Foundation President Michael Bassoff. “Race Carter, Braden Liu and all of their brothers at Lambda Chi Alpha have shown how a simple, but thoughtful, idea can grow into a movement, raising awareness and hope for the thousands of patients who need our help.”

Dogs Accelerate the Advance of New Cancer Treatments for Both Pets and People

National review shows studying cancer in dogs offers ‘a unique opportunity’ for helping patients, saving time and decreasing costs

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Feb. 4, 2016 — A Science Translational Medicine review suggests integrating dogs with naturally occurring cancers into studies of new drug therapeutics could result in better treatments for our four-legged friends while helping inform therapeutic development for human cancers.

The review, conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Science, including faculty at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), hopes to close the gap between human and canine cancer research, and accelerate the knowledge developed by studying cancer in both people and pets, a field known as comparative oncology.

“We are hopeful this analysis will be useful in developing and advancing an agenda for the field of comparative oncology,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director, and one of the authors of the study. “Many canine breeds develop naturally occurring cancers, such as breast cancer and melanoma, that share remarkable genetic similarities with their human equivalent. This allows us a unique opportunity to have what we learn in the human be of help to the dog, and what we learn in the dog to be of direct help to human patients with these cancers.”

Dr. William Hendricks, an Assistant Professor at TGen specializing in canine research, agreed: “It has been remarkable to see first hand the similarity in genetic changes, called mutations, between a dog with melanoma and a human patient with the same disease. Looking through the lens of genetics is giving us new targets and offering new hope for improving our treatment of humans and dogs.”

This “gap analysis” is the result of a National Academies Institute of Medicine workshop — The role of Clinical Studies for Pets with Naturally Occurring Tumors in Translational Cancer Research — held June 8-9, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

“Low cancer drug development success rates and the associated high attrition rates of new drugs, particularly late in human clinical trials, are indicative of a key shortcoming in the preclinical development path,” said Dr. Chand Khanna, a former Senior Scientist at NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, who holds both a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a Ph.D. in Pathobiology, an interdisciplinary field devoted to basic research into the mechanisms of disease.

“Strong similarities between the biology of cancer in dogs and humans have been shown, including patterns of response to therapies and cancer recurrence,” said Dr. Khanna, the review’s senior author. “Specific types of cancer are functionally identical between dogs and humans, and in some cases the cancers can be considered indistinguishable between the species.”

Findings the authors report include:

•    A limited understanding of the filed of comparative oncology in the cancer drug development community.

•    The value of comparative oncology can be seen not only in accelerating drug development and eventual FDA approval, but also in saving time, costs and risks to patients by providing early assessments of clinical trials that should be discontinued.

•    Studying canines to answer questions about drug target biology — before and after exposure to novel treatments — should be a priority.

•    Comparative oncology also should prioritize the development and validation of biomarkers in circulating blood, and guide decisions about optimal drug combination strategies.

•    There is a need to include veterinarians in clinical practice and in the pharmaceutical industry, physician and veterinary medical associations, and aligned philanthropic groups, in the discussion of opportunities presented by comparative oncology.

•    Tissue samples of canine cancers stored in tissue banks and bio-specimen repositories “should now be leveraged in order to rapidly accelerate comparative oncology.”

Importantly, this review found that the knowledge of genetic alterations that drive human cancers far exceeds knowledge of those same alterations in canine cancers. More than 30,000 human cancers have been genomically profiled, while genomic sequencing data has been published for fewer than 50 canine cancers.

“Our understanding of the genomic landscape of canine cancer is widely considered to be the single largest gap currently present in comparative oncology today,” said Dr. Amy LeBlanc, Director of the Comparative Oncology Program at NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, and the review’s lead author.

Other recommendations included in the review: Veterinary schools are best positioned and prepared to successfully recruit and manage canine patients for comparative oncology studies; the successes in immunotherapy in human cancer treatments should be extended to canine clinical trials; and a centralized registry of canine clinical trials should be created, providing easy access for pet owners and veterinarians.

This “Focus” article, published Feb. 3, 2016, in Science Translational Medicine is titled: Perspectives from man’s best friend: National Academy of Medicine’s Workshop on Comparative Oncology: