When asked to describe the field of comparative oncology, Carolyn Henry says, “You would probably get a different definition depending on who you ask that question, [but] when we think of comparative oncology here at the Vet School, we think of treating animals that develop cancer on their own just like people do and finding ways to treat that cancer better and that may translate into better treatments for people as well.” Henry’s interest in oncology began while she was working in private practice as a veterinarian. “It seemed like the cancer patients were the ones I found the most interesting and the most rewarding to treat,” she explains of her decision to pursue training and certification in veterinary oncology.
Henry explains that “when we think of comparative oncology here at the Vet School, we think of treating animals that develop cancer on their own just like people do, finding ways to treat that cancer better, and translating our discoveries into better treatments for people as well.”
Under the umbrella of the National Cancer Institute, 13 universities were chosen to participate in the Comparative Oncology Trial Consortium, which conducts research trials to develop new and better cancer treatments.
Henry is also involved in a number of research projects outside of the COTC, focusing on spontaneously occurring cancer in animals, more specifically breast cancer, bone cancer, and bladder cancer. Chuckling, she remarks, “so I guess any tumor that starts with a ‘b’ is what I’m focused on right now.”
Some of the collaborative efforts Henry has been a part of include research with pharmaceutical companies, the MU Research Reactor, and the Veterinary Cancer Society.
A prevalent attitude about comparative oncology at MU is the concept of one medicine: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a dog, a cat, or a person. If you have cancer you’re fighting the same disease, and so let’s work together and find a cure for it no matter what the species.”
The veterinary oncology program at MU is growing very quickly: “Right now we’ve got four boarded veterinary oncologists, a veterinary radiation therapist, and residents and interns that are interested in oncology.” In September 2006, the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital opened a Cell Culture Lab that has made tumor cell research easier to conduct. The Barkley House, Henry’s brainchild, is in the first stages of becoming a reality.
Henry gives a tour of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, including the Cell Culture Lab, the oncology ward, radiation therapy, and CT scans.