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The Luna Award for Advances in Canine Cancer Research

Luna Hemangiosarcoma survivor

The following Guest Blog post was generously written by our friend Luna‘s Mom, Sandra Thomas, Owner/Breeder, Burghard Shepherds, Lake Mary, Florida.

After learning about Sandra’s generous donation to the AKC Canine Health Foundation in memory of her beloved Luna, we asked her if she would share her exciting story about the day she got to present the first “Luna Award” recently in Orlando, Florida.

Luna’s Memory Lives On

Shortly after my two year old black German Shepherd dog, “Luna” was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma on October 5th, 2007, I learned through the American Kennel Club AKC’s Canine Health Foundation of the research of Matthew Breen, PhD, (Professor Genomics), and Tessa Breen (Canine Genomics Sample Coordinator, Canine Cancer Genomics Program, North Carolina State University of Raleigh). I thought if nothing could be done for Luna, at least Luna might be able to do something for someone else. In fact, I enrolled all 12 of my dogs, including Luna’s parents and nine siblings, in his research program. I hoped that this family group might be useful to Dr. Breen in some way.

Luna had a long journey, she outlasted all of her vets’ predictions of two weeks to two months to live. She lived another 11 months after her formal diagnosis (and she had been limping several months prior to her diagnosis when we didn’t know what was wrong with her). Her journey included an initial surgery which removed part of the bone in her right hind leg to get the diagnosis, followed six months later with an amputation of the same leg, hemipelvectomy, chemotherapy, metronomics, and SAHA treatment. She lived life to the fullest as a “tripawd” for nearly another six months.

The Big Day: Presenting at Conference

Sandra Thomas ACK Canine Genetics ConferenceWhen Luna, then 3 years old, died on September 16th, 2008, I wanted to do something to try to keep her memory alive and to help further research in the field of canine cancer. That is when I made a donation to Dr. Breen’s research program in memory of Luna.

In response to the donation, Dr. Breen suggested that part of the donation go to an award to the “best presentation or poster” at the “Genes, Dogs and  Cancer: 5th International Canine Cancer Conference” to be held February 13 – 15, 2009 at the Royal Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Breen, who chaired the conference which was open to all scientists, veterinarians, and dog fanciers with a scientific interest in cancer, suggested we call the award the “Luna Award for Advances in Canine Cancer Research“. Dr. Breen felt that this award, in his words, would “help keep her memory alive, not just among ourselves, but across the broader canine cancer genomics community.” And, he invited me to present the award personally at the conference as another way to remember our special Luna .

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