Puccini Foundation for Comparative Oncology - One Health Commission

Puccini Foundation for Comparative Oncology


Pets & People: Shared Cancers. Shared Hope.




The Puccini Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to building awareness of, and raising funds specifically for, comparative oncology programs. Many of the same cancers that affect people occur in pets, too: melanoma, lymphoma, bone cancer, breast cancer and more. The growing field of comparative oncology offers new hope for innovative treatments and cures for cancer in humans and animals. The Puccini Foundation was established to provide a much needed voice for the science, to educate the public on the importance, achievements, and potential of this research frontier.

Why is comparative oncology important?

Comparative oncology studies cancers that occur naturally in animals (not just dogs, but also cats, horses and other domesticated animals); it uses its findings to develop treatments and cures that can benefit people, as well as animals.

People and pets share many biological commonalities; in fact, dogs have a genome 90% identical to that of humans.  We live together in environments where we are exposed to the same carcinogens including second hand smoke, pesticides, pollutants from cars, coal and kerosene, paints, solvents and other chemicals. Even environmental issues such as over-vaccinating, chemicals in tap water and ingesting additives in food can increase the risk of cancer. Pets are often affected by these environmental factors in the same way as humans.

As a result of these biological and environmental commonalities, domestic animals afflicted with cancer represent a wealth of potential medical information that cannot be discovered through investigations with laboratory rodents, and pets are a huge population worthy of study. It is important to note that in comparative oncology, cancer is never induced in the animals being treated; the cancer in the animals has only occurred spontaneously.

Comparative oncology can help uncover new, improved treatments for human cancer even faster than human studies alone:

·         Animals’ shorter life spans allow researchers to determine efficacies of treatments faster. This means the discovery of new cures could happen sooner than ever.

·         Because many cancers in domestic animals closely resemble human cancer, scientists gain important insight that rodent-based cancer studies cannot provide.

·         The incidence of many types of cancer is the same or greater in dogs and cats as in humans providing a significant potential population for research.

·         Animals’ size and structural similarity allows for refinement of surgical and other techniques that may also be effective in humans.

·         Similar diagnostic tools can be used on animals as on humans.

The Puccini Foundation Website;  www.puccinifoundation.org  


The Puccini Foundation website www.puccinifoundation.org  is poised to become a centralized, valuable resource for laymen and medical professionals alike for comparative oncology. Our goal is for the site to be the “go to” resource for all information related to comparative oncology:

·         Details on shared cancers (definitions, symptoms, current treatments)

·         Descriptions and locations for clinical trials

·         Overviews of universities and other medical organizations involved in comparative oncology research and breakthroughs

·         Glossaries of terms

·         News articles, medical journals and other media about shared cancers puccinifoundation.org/shared-cancers/

·         Patient stories (humans and animals) about cancer and the human-animal bond

·         An online community where people (and their pets) affected by cancer can seek support of others experiencing similar challenges


Several examples of comparative oncology successes can be found on our website: http://puccinifoundation.org/shared-cancers/


Here are a few:

·         Melanoma: The melanoma vaccine, ONCEPTtm, which treats canine malignant melanoma, has received full U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval and is currently being studied for possible human application. This is a cancer treatment and not a preventative vaccine.http://puccinifoundation.org/shared-cancers/melanoma-vaccine-success/

·         Mast Cell Tumors: In 2009, the USDA approved the first drug made specifically to treat cancer in dogs, Palladia. Previously, veterinarians used medicine developed for humans to treat dogs; the targeted therapy protocol using Palladia was initially developed through human cancer research. The new drug, manufactured by Pfizer Animal Health, Inc. treats mast cell tumors, a cancer found in humans and dogs, and one of the most common types of canine cancer.


·         Osteosarcoma (bone cancer): Samarium-153-EDTMP is being used to treat canine osteosarcoma. Originally a radiopharmaceutical that targets bone lesions and helps to alleviate pain in dogs, the treatment is now approved for use in humans with bone cancer and marketed as Quadramet.


·         Lymphoma: Texas A&M University is continuing a ground-breaking research project for canine non-Hodgkin lymphoma using T-cell therapy developed at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital. The USDA has approved trials using T-cell immunotherapy to treat humans for lymphoma.



Our Purpose


The Puccini Foundation raises awareness of, and generates funding for, comparative oncology.  It is dedicated to the hope of a future for pets and people… cancer free.




The Puccini Foundation is based in the United States, but can include international information as well.

We are headquartered in New York, New York, USA.


Primary Funders


 Private donations


Participants and Key Collaborators


o   Philip J. Bergman, DVM, MS, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM, Oncology, Director of Clinical Studies for VCA Antech and the Medical Director for Katonah-Bedford Veterinary Center

o   Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD, Associate Attending Physician, Melanoma and Sarcoma Service in the Department of Medicine; Associate Director, Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

o   Matthew Breen, PhD CBiol FSB, Professor of Genomics,College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State UniversityCenter for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research, NCSU; Cancer Genetics Program, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

o   Craig A. Clifford, DVM, MS, Diplomate American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Oncology)

o   Alan Manevitz, MD

o   Morris Animal Foundation 

o   AKC Animal Health Foundation

o   Private donors and volunteers


Brief History of Organization and One Health Involvement


 The Puccini Foundation was created in 2007 by Linda Cohen Wassong after her cocker spaniel and longtime companion, Puccini, was stricken with melanoma, the same dangerous skin cancer that humans endure. (Coincidentally, that was the same year the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Medical Association announced their collaboration and the founding of “One Health Initiative,” an effort to bring together animal health, human health and ecosystem health.)

Puccini participated in clinical trials with Dr. Philip Bergman (then of The Animal Medical Center) 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. The treatment he received went on to become first and only USDA-approved, therapeutic vaccine for the treatment of cancer in animals or humans. (The vaccine is a cancer treatment, not a preventative measure.)

This program was an important collaboration involving clinical trials at The Animal Medical Center by veterinary oncologists, and the creation of the vaccine by human oncologists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering – leaders in both human and animal medicine joined together for mutual benefit of people and pets.

 Inspired by the hope the comparative oncology clinical trials offered Linda and so many others whose loved ones suffer from cancer, she established the Puccini Foundation. 

The Puccini Foundation hosts an annual fundraising awards event, which recognizes and honors leaders in the field of comparative oncology.  http://puccinifoundation.org/about-us/puccini-foundation-awards/

More details can be found here:  http://puccinifoundation.org/about-us/


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