Gerald P Murphy masthead

Foundation Update: Summer 2004

Highlights from the latest developments at the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation:

To reinforce the Murphy Foundation’s strong commitment to the goal of cancer prevention, Dr. Waters traveled to Pisa, Italy in October 2003 to present the Foundation’s work on selenium and prostate cancer prevention at the International Conference on Antimutagenesis and Anticarcinogenesis. “The idea of cancer prevention has been relatively slow to take hold in the oncology community,” said Dr. Waters. “In contrast, cardiologists have been tuned into preventing heart attacks for a long time—they’re way ahead of us in their progressive thinking.” The Foundation’s cancer prevention mission is bolstered by a strong collaboration with the Northern Indiana Cancer Research Consortium, one of 61 Community Clinical Oncology Programs in the United States. Established in 1983 by the National Cancer Institute, Community Clinical Oncology Programs disseminate up-to-the-minute information on cancer prevention and treatment and enable physicians and patients to participate in clinical trials nationwide. We are encouraged, that in response to growing academic and practical interest in cancer prevention, the U.S. Senate declared February 2004 as the first “Cancer Prevention Awareness Month.” One thing about the future is certain—The Murphy Foundation will continue to be a tireless advocate for cancer prevention. Murphy Foundation research continues to probe the cancer-fighting properties of the trace mineral selenium. Although selenium is an essential component of the body’s antioxidant defense system, the precise mechanism of how selenium exerts its anticancer effect is unknown. In the February 5, 2003 issue of The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, scientists at the Murphy Foundation published research findings proposing a new mechanism of how selenium works — through the selective elimination of DNA damaged cells within the aging prostate gland. In December 2003, the Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program highlighted this research (“Selenium and the Prostate Cancer Switch”) on their website — 3 and in their annual report to the U.S. Congress.

More recent work by scientists at the Murphy Foundation has focused on potential differences in the anticancer effects of selenium in men versus women. “After carefully considering the evidence from 7 countries, we found that low selenium appears to be an important risk factor for cancer in men. In contrast, we found little evidence to support the hypothesis that selenium status significantly modifies a woman’s risk for cancer,” said J. Steven Morris, PhD, an expert on selenium from the University of Missouri and co-author of the study. “These provocative findings, which will be published in the journal Mutation Research this summer, add a whole new layer of complexity to our thinking about the relationship between dietary selenium intake and cancer prevention,” said Dr. David J. Waters, Director of the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation, who led the study. In recognition of the Murphy Foundation’s cutting edge work addressing the selenium and cancer problem, Dr. Waters was invited to deliver the keynote address at the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) Research Symposium entitled “Mineral and Trace Element Hypotheses in Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases,” held in Columbia, Missouri in May 2004. In addition to the Foundation’s basic science research on selenium, the Clinical Research Program of the Murphy Foundation headed by Inna Savikhin, RN is proud to be one of more than 400 sites in North America enrolling 33,000 men into the SELECT Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) — sponsored SELECT study is the largest prostate cancer prevention trial ever conducted. During the next 10 years, SELECT will test whether daily supplementation with selenium and/or vitamin E significantly reduces the incidence of prostate cancer.

PATH to Progress®, a newly trademarked program of the Murphy Foundation, is exploring the potential of a unique untapped resource: pet dogs. The Foundation’s vision is to transform pet dogs into a highly relevant field laboratory to study cancer mechanisms and to develop novel cancer treatments. “We are enrolling pet dogs with cancer that desperately need treatment into state-of-the art clinical trials so that new ideas generated in the research laboratory today can rapidly become the cancer treatments of tomorrow for pets and people,” said Dr. Dawn M. Cooley, DVM, Director of Comparative Oncology Research at the Murphy Foundation. The Foundation is currently conducting cancer treatment trials in pet dogs with bone, prostate, or liver cancer. We say: “We’re putting man’s best friend on the trail of a killer.” A newly published book, Not Forgotten, written by Alexandra Day, author of the famous Good Dog Carl series, honors PATH to Progress in its beautiful tribute to the loss of beloved pets. Proceeds from the book will support future clinical trials. Click for more information on PATH to Progress and Not Forgotten.

The Foundation’s new research findings were presented at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington in September 2003. Dr. David Waters was honored to receive an invitation to participate in a national conference, “Genes, Dogs and Cancer.” Dr. Waters shared with colleagues the Foundation’s newest research on the naturally-occurring prostate cancers of pet dogs. His presentation provided an update to the previous consensus report crafted by experts at the First International Workshop on Animal Models of Prostate Cancer, which was co-organized in 1997 by Dr. Murphy, Dr. Waters, and Dr. David Bostwick. The Seattle conference also featured presentations by comparative oncologists from other institutions throughout the United States. Of particular interest, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health announced the creation of a Comparative Oncology Program. For the first time, the NCI formally recognizes the importance of studying the naturally-occurring cancers of pet animals to advance the field of cancer research. Because part of the Foundation’s mission is to validate the comparative oncology approach, the Foundation is uniquely positioned to capitalize on new opportunities made possible through the NCI’s Comparative Oncology Program.

In collaboration with Purdue University’s Center on Aging and the Life Course, the Murphy Foundation helped to sponsor “Early Origins of Adult Health: Biological Processes.” This symposium allowed biomedical investigators, social scientists, and their trainees to exchange ideas regarding the growing evidence that early life events significantly influence adult health outcome and longevity. Steven N. Austad, PhD, a world-renowned expert on the biology of aging and the author of the book Why We Age, was the featured speaker. By co-sponsoring this event, the Murphy Foundation seeks to improve the quality of people’s lives by stimulating interdisciplinary research on aging.

Murphy scientists have published research establishing pet dogs as important models to study the cancer resistance that accompanies exceptional longevity. Scientists who study people that live to be 100 years of age (i.e. centenarians) have discovered a puzzling paradox: although cancer mortality rates increase throughout most of adulthood, cancer risk actually decreases in advanced age. As a first step in determining whether the oldest-old pet dogs are also cancer resistant, Murphy Foundation scientists used information collected from pet owners and veterinarians to construct lifetime medical histories for 345 Rottweiler dogs. “Our findings clearly demonstrate that, similar to the oldest-old humans, the oldest-old pet dogs have a significantly lower risk of cancer mortality,” said Dr. Dawn M. Cooley, Director of Comparative Oncology Research at the Murphy Foundation. “This raises the distinct possibility that cancer resistance genes are over-represented in the extreme aged of both species. Future studies are now focused on defining the mechanism of the observed cancer resistance in extreme aged humans and dogs,” stated Dr. Cooley. In addition to cancer resistance, dogs with exceptional longevity significantly delayed the onset of other major life-threatening diseases. In fact, 76% of extreme aged dogs remained free of all major diseases until after they were 9 years old — the age at which the average Rottweiler has expired. The report is the first detailed description of extreme aged pet dogs and opens new vistas into the comparative aspects of exceptional longevity in dogs and humans. The landmark study was published in the December 2003 issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences.

Earlier in 2003, Dr. Cooley was recognized for her work on cancer and aging by receiving an award for Outstanding Contributions to Biogerontology Research from Purdue University’s Center on Aging and the Life Course. This work is joint research conducted by the Murphy Foundation and Purdue University which is funded by The IAMS Company, Animal Cancer Foundation, and the Brookdale Foundation.

The Murphy Foundation assisted in formulating the Cancer Control Plan for the State of Indiana. As a member of the Indiana Cancer Consortium, the Murphy Foundation is playing an active role in developing the comprehensive cancer plan to guide future priorities to achieve the goal of cancer control. The state’s Cancer Control Plan, which will be announced to the public in October 2004, addresses the issues of primary prevention, early detection, treatment, quality of life, and advocacy. The Murphy Foundation is well aware of the concerns facing men with prostate cancer in Indiana because of the close relationships forged between the Foundation and the American Cancer Society-sponsored Man to Man prostate cancer survivor groups in Kokomo, Lafayette, and Indianapolis. The Murphy Foundation is also playing a role in the formulation of cancer control policy internationally as a member of the US National Committee of the International Union Against Cancer (UICC).

A critical perspective on the comparative aspects of bone cancer research was presented by Dr. Waters at the Children’s Oncology Group Meeting in April 2004. Dr. Waters joined a group of scientists, nurses and physicians gathered in Washington, DC to advance the understanding, prevention, and treatment of childhood cancers. The Murphy Foundation offers a unique perspective to the field of pediatric oncology research. The Foundation recently completed a large-scale study in Rottweiler dogs with osteosarcoma (the same type of bone cancer that afflicts children and teenagers) and will soon initiate a nationwide bone cancer prevention trial in pet dogs. Murphy Foundation scientists are dedicated to advancing new strategies to treat and prevent osteosarcoma, a lethal and underfunded disease of children, teenagers, and pet dogs.

The Murphy Foundation recognizes top students for excellence in comparative oncology. Zareen J. Mistry of Kansas State University and Jeetendra Reddy of Ross University were the 2004 recipients of the Gerald P. Murphy Prize for Excellence in Comparative Oncology. These awards recognize exceptional students during the fourth year of their veterinary medical school curriculum who demonstrate the potential to make important contributions to the field of comparative oncology. These awards, initiated in 2001, are testimony to the Murphy Foundation’s commitment to developing young comparative biomedical scientists as tomorrow’s leaders in cancer research.

Hail to the Gallery Club! The Gallery Club is a group of individuals donating $100 or more to establish and maintain a gallery collection honoring Dr. Murphy’s accomplishments in the cancer research field. The Gallery Club boasts more than 60 founding members from 19 states and 6 countries. The collection includes some of Dr. Murphy’s published scientific manuscripts and textbooks, photographs, and correspondence. The Gallery collection also documents the ongoing contributions to cancer research that the Foundation has made using its comparative oncology approach. These include our recent publications on sex hormones and bone cancer risk (Cancer, Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, 2002) and on using the aging dog prostate to explore the cancer preventive mechanisms of selenium (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2003). These chronicles of past and future accomplishments are displayed at our office headquarters located in West Lafayette, Indiana, along with a plaque permanently inscribed with names of the Gallery Club members. Many thanks to Gallery Club members who have enabled the Foundation to create a special place where people can see vivid examples of the steady progress that we are making in the fight against cancer. Click to learn how you can become a member of The Gallery Club, or contact us by phone (765-775-1005) or email (

Foundation Update is a bi-annual newsletter published by the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation, a not-for-profit research foundation supported by grants from federal, corporate, and private foundation sources, and by donations from individuals. For information on making tax-deductible donations to the Foundation, please contact Deborah Wright, our Business Development Director, toll-free at 877-493-5175.