Puccini Foundation Inaugural Awards Event Spotlights Research and Similarity of Cancer in People and Dogs

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Celebrating Innovations in Cutting Edge Cancer Research Benefiting People and Pets Man's Best Friend May Find Treatments for Cancer in People

Dr. Roger Mahr –     Past President of the AVMA and Past CEO of the One Health Commission,  
  Jill O’Donnell-Tormey CEO of the Cancer Research Institute,  
Jedd D. Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center,
Linda Cohen Wassong, President & Founder, Puccini Foundation,
Philip Bergman, DVM, MS, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM, Oncology
Director of Clinical Studies for VCA Antech and the Medical Director for Katonah-Bedford Veterinary Center, 
Laura H. Kahn, MD, MPH, MPP
Co-Founder, One Health Initiative

Puccini Foundation Shared Cancers/Shared Cures Honorees and Presenter

"I am certainly dedicated to the field of comparative oncology...It's the future of medicine," states Dr. Schiffman.

On October 28, 2013, the Puccini Foundation for Comparative Oncology (http://www.puccinifoundation.org) hosted its inaugural awards event in New York City. The Shared Cancer/Shared Cures celebration honored the collaborative efforts of world renowned experts: a veterinary oncologist and a medical oncologist, and their cutting edge research that studies spontaneous cancer intended for humans that also benefits our pets.

Honorees included Dr. Philip Bergman, veterinary oncologist from Katonah-Bedford Veterinary Center, and Dr. Jedd Wolchok, immunologist from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The collaboration between Dr. Bergman and Dr. Wolchok produced ONCEPT, the Canine Melanoma Vaccine which made history as the first and only USDA-approved, therapeutic vaccine for the treatment of cancer – in either animals or humans. The information from the ONCEPT canine clinical trials is being used in ongoing research to investigate potential implications for a human treatment.

Also honored was the Blue Buffalo Company (the top pet food company providing healthy and holistic natural foods) for its corporate responsibility leadership role in supporting animal cancer research. While many companies support animal welfare, Blue Buffalo is one of the first to actively support the healthcare of animals through its Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research.

Prior to presenting the Shared Cancer/Shared Cures Visionary Award to Dr. Bergman, Dr. Roger Mahr, co-founder and recently retired CEO of the One Health Commission, spoke of the importance of collaboration and convergence of the animal and human medical fields. Cancer Research Institute chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs, Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, presented the Shared Cancer/Shared Cures Visionary Award to Dr. Wolchok. The two honorees and the audience were treated to a congratulatory video message from Dr. Chand Khanna of the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research.

Beth Mars, Director of Operations and Development for The Petco Foundation, presented the Shared Cancer/Shared Cures Corporate Responsibility Award to Blue Buffalo Company’s David Petrie, Vice President and President of the Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research for the organization’s work in supporting animal cancer research.

Dr. Mahr and Dr. Laura Kahn, co-founder of the One Health Initiative, also received special recognition for their work in advancing the One Health movement.

In 2007, Linda Cohen Wassong launched The Puccini Foundation to educate the public and raise funds for comparative oncology research. Comparative oncology is the study of cancer that naturally occurs in animals, to help find treatments and cures for humans, as well as animals. Through collaboration by researchers of human and animal medicine, comparative oncology seeks innovative approaches to discover treatments and cures for cancer faster and more cost-effectively.

The Shared Cancer/Shared Cures Celebration, held at the Griffis Faculty Club in New York City, was attended by leading medical and veterinary researchers, NYC veterinarians and MD’s, as well as Bob Antin, CEO of VCA Antech, and pet owners whose dogs have benefitted from comparative oncology studies. Renowned board members, Joshua Schiffman, MD, Medical Director, Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah, and Alan Manevitz, MD, psychiatrist in NYC and associate professor and attending at NYC’s top hospitals, celebrated the foundations inaugural event. " I am certainly dedicated to the field of comparative oncology - for both personal and professional reasons. Comparative Oncology is the future of medicine," states, Dr. Schiffman.

The event was both a fundraiser as well as an opportunity to build awareness for the important advances being made in cancer research through this novel new methodology. Corporate supporters of the event included Blue Buffalo Company, Merial (the manufacturer of ONCEPT), Novartis and Zoetis.

“The event was a huge success. Our guests included leaders in the human oncology and veterinary fields. All in attendance support cancer research that will lead to finding treatments and cures for cancer in humans and our pets. Together, we all help give a voice to the promising science of comparative oncology,” says Wassong.

In 2006, Wassong’s cocker spaniel and longtime companion, Puccini, was stricken with melanoma, the same dangerous skin cancer that humans endure. Her dog participated in clinical trials as part of a partnership between veterinarians at New York’s The Animal Medical Center (AMC) and human oncology researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). Through the trials, Puccini’s quality and quantity of life were extended.

“To quote Roger Mahr, “We live in a changing environment populated by interconnected human and animal contact, creating integrated challenges. These challenges require integrated solutions and call for a collaborative leadership.”

The Puccini Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 2007. It is dedicated to the hope of a future for pets and people…cancer free. The Puccini Foundation’s mission is to make this a reality by educating the public and raising funds for comparative oncology programs. The Puccini Foundation serves as a resource for the One Health Commission: Wassong serves on the board of directors. http://www.onehealthcommission.org/en/resources/puccini_foundation_for_comparative_oncology/

Linda Cohen Wassong has served as publisher of national women’s beauty/fashion magazines and worked in real estate specializing in pet friendly properties in New York City. She continues to support non-profit organizations that benefit people and pets. Linda works as a life coach.

For more information on The Puccini Foundation, visit http://www.puccinifoundation.org or email Linda Cohen Wassong at linda@puccinifoundation.org. To make a donation, please visit http://puccinifoundation.org/donate-now/.

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