Just as it does in human patients, the dreaded word “cancer” can inspire tremendous anxiety and uncertainty in pet owners. But this I can say without hesitation: when clients come to us at Penn Vet, they gain access to a cancer-fighting team with the brightest minds and the biggest hearts, who will be there every step of the journey.
Penn Vet has long led the way in compassionate cancer care and groundbreaking research, treatments, and clinical trials. In the late 1930s, Dr. M.A. Emmerson established the first Department of Veterinary Radiology in a North American veterinary school here at Penn Vet—spurring the practice and progress of radiation therapy in animals. Today, we are renowned for a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary, and customized approach, which draws upon unparalleled expertise in medical oncology, surgery, radiation therapy, interventional radiology, and other specialties.
The Penn Vet Cancer Center marks the next chapter of this exceptional legacy. With a focus on collaboration—and a deeper integration of care, research, and innovation—the Center promises to bring breakthroughs directly to patients faster than ever before. And as an active member of the National Cancer Institute’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium, and through our partnership with Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, Penn Vet is at the forefront of translational research benefiting both animals and humans.
The similarities of cancer in pets and people are striking and, more and more, our MD colleagues recognize what they can learn from veterinarians. Dr. Robert Vonderheide, ACC’s new director, is a longtime friend of Penn Vet who is fully invested in the idea that we can do more together. As we continue to develop plans for infrastructure, my hope is that the Penn Vet Cancer Center encourages routine communication, cooperation, and co-location between MDs and VMDs studying and treating cancer. And, as with all the great science we do, the Penn Vet Cancer Center will be accomplished through philanthropic partnerships with individuals, corporations, and foundations.
In this issue, you’ll read about impactful work that exemplifies connectivity. For instance, Penn Vet’s Dr. Nicola Mason—a protégé of Penn Medicine’s immunotherapy pioneer Dr. Carl June—has made promising advances in immunotherapy in collaboration with Penn microbiologist Dr. Yvonne Paterson. (See the story here to learn more.)
Penn Vet is proud to contribute to the University’s momentum in the fight against cancer. Last year, former Vice President Joe Biden kicked off the national “moonshot” effort at Penn because of the University’s cutting-edge work in immunotherapy. I think the unique, One Health nature of our work at Penn has helped propel our success. We are on our way to being truly, fully integrated across species and across Schools—joining forces to advance health and science for the betterment of animals, humans, and our environment.
I must return to the clients who come through our doors. I’m constantly inspired by their courage navigating tough decisions, yet openness to innovative treatments and trials that may lead to new discoveries. Our animal patients, too, never cease to inspire. More than companions, they are our teachers, reminding us about resilience and the power of living in the moment.