Why Understanding Cancer is Important to Morris Animal Foundation President/CEO, Davide Haworth, DVM, PhD
By Sarah Ford on May 20, 2014
Source: Morris Animal Foundation
By David Haworth, DVM, PhD, President/CEO, Morris Animal Foundation
Our fight against cancer is almost always personal. Ironically, the lives of pets have become markedly longer and healthier because of leash laws, routine vaccinations, improved veterinary care and even people’s unwillingness to allow animals to roam the streets. As a result of these improvements, animal deaths caused by trauma and disease have dramatically declined during the past two decades. Cancer—sometimes called the “disease of last resort” —has reared its ugly head in their absence. No one has welcomed it.
After I completed my PhD work in the science of hormones, particularly around reproduction, in 1997, I returned to veterinary school. My plan was to return to that field for a career in traditional academics. At the veterinary teaching hospital, however, I started meeting the cancer survivors, the beautiful dogs and cats undergoing surgery and gamely taking on chemotherapy. I loved those animals instinctively.
I also started to see the tumors themselves as our surgeons removed them. And in those tumors, I saw something ugly and evil. It is not very scientific for me to phrase it that way—ugly and evil aren’t terms we scientists often use—but there is no other way to say it. I went back to my PhD advisers and told them I was changing career paths. Somewhat to my surprise, they gave me full support. One of the things I realized then, which has been reinforced throughout my career, is that cancer has no friends. Everyone has had an experience with this disease, and no one is a fan.