Mar 222010
 
Authors: David Martinez

Steve Withrow wants people to know how he funds CSU’s Animal Cancer Center, what he calls the “biggest program for pet cancer in the world.”  

Withrow, director of the ACC, spoke with a group of more than two dozen science enthusiasts at an old theater off of College Avenue and Harmony Road Monday about the Cancer Center’s purpose and the efforts taken to finance and apply its research. 

“Brain tumors are easy,” Withrow said. “Raising $700,000 (a year) isn’t.”  

More than a third of the ACC’s funds come from private funding and donations. Fewer than 15 percent of funds come from the state, 20 percent comes from student tuition and fees and 30 percent comes from research grants. 
 
The ACC also receives funding and assistance from federal sources, such as the National Cancer Institute and the FDA, and regional sources, such as the University of Colorado and the Ronald McDonald House. 
 
Despite the ACC’s money woes, the center continues to offer free consultation to anyone who brings in an animal. It receives 5,000 appointments and 1,500 new cases a year. 

“We’re paying $75,000 for someone to sit there and answer the phone,” Withrow said.   

When asked why the ACC would willingly spend so much money, Withrow said the center has a moral obligation to accept new cases. He also said that many people have been willing to give the ACC money out of trust. 

“I was there for 30 minutes, and I felt like I was the only one they were helping,” said Jack Coman, a member of the audience who had previously used the facility to help his dog. 

The ACC specializes in performing clinical trials on a variety of exotic animals, such as the fish in the Denver Aquarium, but much of their research focuses on cats and dogs. One out of four dogs and one out of three cats get cancer during the course of their lives. 

But while all of the ACC’s research focuses on treating animals, Withrow said that roughly half of the cancer research is translational –– it researches ways to tie animal treatments into future human treatments.   
 

The ACC works with a campus-wide “supercluster,” which combines the research from CSU’s biomedical departments to produce bona fide medical solutions for patients. 

Many in the audience belonged to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a program that offers noncredit and no assignment courses for people older than 50 years old.  They went to the presentation as part of the Perk Lecture series, a series of education lectures offered for free.  

Bob Eltz, a participant in the OLLI, said that the talk made him realize and respect “the great interaction between human and animal research.”  “People don’t appreciate it.”  

Staff writer David Martinez can be reached at news@collegian.com. 

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