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Dr. Guy Sheppard '76,
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Bond Between Humans, Dogs May Lead to Treatment for Brain Tumors


September 30, 2009

Dogs have a reputation for being man’s best friends. Soon these canine companions may provide critical insight into developing treatments for deadly brain tumors that strike young adults, thanks to a collaboration between Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, and M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Marnie Rose
Marnie Rose died from a brain tumor in 2002
during her second year of pediatric residency

A Life Lost
That breakthrough won’t come too soon for Lanie Rose. Her daughter, Marnie, was beginning her pediatric residency at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “Because her work in pediatrics meant the world to her, Children’s Memorial Hermann enabled her to continue her residency after the diagnosis,” Lanie said.

“When Marnie was diagnosed, it was so horrifying to learn that brain cancer was under-recognized, the research was under-funded, and the prognosis had not changed in 50 years. In the last five years, there’s been some progress, but brain tumors are usually fatal after one to two years.”

Unfortunately, Marnie, 28, died in 2002 during the second year of her residency. Soon after Lanie and her husband Jerry created the Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation in their daughter’s memory.

A Research Collaboration
Enter the Texas Neuro-Oncology Program. This program got its start in 2008 after Dr. Stephen Fletcher’s two boxers died from brain tumors. Fletcher, a pediatric neurosurgeon at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, contacted Dr. Jon Levine of Texas A&M’s vet school.

boxer
Researchers hope to help dogs and
young adults with brain tumors through
the Texas Neuro-Oncology Program.

“Jon and I discussed a cooperative program in which we would contribute to knowledge about canines with tumors,” Fletcher said. “I would provide technical and surgical expertise, and he would provide better outcomes for dogs with tumors. We then brought in our colleague from M. D. Anderson with the thought that if we could prove some novel therapies could work in dogs, it might accentuate the speed at which these could be applied in kids.”

The program is a natural fit for the Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation. The Rose Foundation and donations from Mattie and Keith Stevenson supported an MRI and CT guided imaging system to accurately biopsy brain tumors in critical areas of the brain. In addition, these donations have provided the mechanism to fund laboratory work for DNA analysis and will pay for innovative chemotherapy protocols. George Merkt of Radionics also provided critical support early in the program by discounting innovative equipment used for brain biopsies. The new equipment allows precise biopsy techniques of tumors in the brains of dogs, which was integral to launching the program.

Rose Family
Jerry, Myles, Darren, Jennifer and Lanie Rose at the
Rose Pod - a pod of pediatric rooms named in
Marnie's memory - at Children's Memorial Hermann
Hospital in Houston.

The Texas Neuro-Oncology Program needs additional funding to support the next three years of research. “We are breaking ground in that we’re trying to cure both dogs and kids,” Fletcher said.  “We’ve got to get private funding to get early data. Eventually we hope to go to the National Institutes of Health for funding.”

The program’s early supporters are delighted with the opportunity to maximize their investment.  “The collaboration between these major research entities is what we love about this project,” Lanie said. “Supporting the Texas Neuro-Oncology Program is an efficient use of funds and brings together these outstanding surgical and research talents from the University of Texas and Texas A&M.”

By Dorian Martin


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