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Sources: Randi King, rlking@k-state.edu;
and Annelise Nguyen, 785-532-4429, tnugyen@vet.k-state.edu
Pronouncer: Nguyen is Win
Photo available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-6415.
Video available: http://www.k-state.edu/media/audio/podcasts/gordon2.mov and http://www.kstate.edu/media/audio/podcasts/diagnosticslab.mov
Download information available at http://www.k-state.edu/media/audio/podcastindex.html
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-6415, khodges2@k-state.edu

Monday, Jan. 26, 2009

K-STATE STUDENT RESEARCHES BREAST CANCER IN CATS AND DOGS

MANHATTAN -- Just like in humans, cancer can occur in any part of the body of dogs and cats. That's why one Kansas State University student is researching breast cancer that affects these common pets.

Randi King in front of computer screen showing a slide from her research

Randi King, junior in animal science and industry and pre-veterinary medicine, Rose Hill, is conducting animal breast cancer cell research with Annelise Nguyen, assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at K-State.

King is examining samples of breast cancer cells from cats and dogs, which were provided by K-State's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. She is characterizing various biomarkers in the mammary tumors, which have shown to play a crucial role in human cancer, to eventually establish their differential patterns.

There are only a limited number of drugs currently available in cancer treatment for dogs and cats, and by establishing differential patterns it will allow for an increase of treatments that have been approved for human drugs to extend to veterinary medicine, according to King.

Cancer accounts for about 50 percent of pet deaths each year, and King's research will add more information to the medical field, where little is known about cat and dog breast cancer, she said.

"I know it's not an area that is well researched right now," she said. "It would be an awesome area to go into because it's kind of pioneering, because we've gone so in-depth in human cancer. It would be really cool to start seeing cancer therapy at veterinary clinics."

Nguyen said the mapping of the genome sequence of dogs and cats has been completed, which gives researchers an advantage when studying diseases. She said King's research has more implications than the health of pets.

"Many of the new cancer treatments and cures that we find for dogs and cats will help treat and cure humans as well," Nguyen said. "We are comparing the similarity of a specific gene expression in a dog or cat with humans."

King's project started in fall 2008, and her research will continue as part of a two-year program through K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine.

King said she wanted to become a veterinarian after her childhood pet, a cat, died from leukemia.

"The veterinarians couldn't do anything for him," she said. "I decided then to become a vet because I thought, 'I'm going to figure out what to do and be able to save some little girl's best friend someday.'"

At first, King said she was intimidated at the idea of doing cancer research.

"I was a little nervous, but after I talked to Annelise, she has such a warm personality that she just put me at ease," King said. "When she was explaining everything, I realized how cool the whole big picture of it was."

King came to K-State wanting to be a small-animal veterinarian, but she has since worked with much larger animals through K-State's College of Agriculture.

She plans to apply to K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine and would like to own a clinic eventually, though she said university research also is a possibility in her future.

King is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority; Order of Omega, the Greek honor society; Wildcats for Pet Adoption and Welfare, or PAW; and the Pre-Vet Club. She is a 2006 graduate of Rose Hill High School and the daughter of Kenny and Glenda King, Rose Hill.