ASIP Highlights Session:
I Am An ASIP Member and This Is My Science
- Experimental Biology 2019 – Orlando FL
Nora Springer, DVM
Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathology
Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
As a PhD-trained veterinary pathologist, my interests lie in the intersection of discovery, translational, and clinical research. I study comparative oncology, meaning cancers that occur in both animals and people. The old saying, “people resemble their pets” is quite true. One cancer that is quite similar in both dogs and people is lymphoma. Lymphoma, a cancer of immune cells in the blood, is a “liquid tumor” that can affect every organ in the body. Precisely how lymphoma picks which organs to invade has stumped physicians and scientists for decades.
Due to the faster progression of lymphoma in our canine companions, I’m hoping to circumvent one of the major limitations of clinical research — the long time needed to collect meaningful results. Most dogs unfortunately succumb to lymphoma within 12 to 18 months, despite aggressive treatment. Death from lymphoma is typically due to extensive invasion of organs, resulting in organ failure. However, this rapid course provides us with a unique opportunity to study the disease process at an accelerated pace, like time-lapse photography, versus the five to seven years necessary for a clinical study in people.
I collect lymphoma cells from dogs prior to treatment. The cells are evaluated for patterns of cell surface markers that are suspected to be important in how lymphoma metastasizes to organs. The markers are compared to lymphoma location in each dog and that dog’s response to chemotherapy. My goal for studying cancer in pets is to develop novel biomarkers to inform patient treatment decisions and shorten the drug discovery timeframe to place new medications into the hands of physicians and veterinarians more quickly.
I joined ASIP in 2013 when I was making the transition from veterinary pathologist to PhD student studying breast cancer in people. I wanted to find a community that spoke a common language, pathology, but where I could make connections in my new world of human cancer research. What I found was an amazing group of warm and supportive individuals. ASIP has been a wealth of career development opportunities and mentoring over the past 6 years. When I go to an ASIP meeting, I know I will be discussing science and my ideas with people who truly want to see me succeed, which is so refreshing in the competitive world of academic research.