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Dr. Annette Smith joins Puccini Foundation for Comparative Oncology Scientific Advisory Council

Oct. 18, 2012

By Linda Wassong, Puccini Foundation, (212) 688-6444

The Puccini Foundation for Comparative Oncology recently expanded its board of directors and scientific advisory council with leaders from the medical and business fields. The foundation was formed in 2007 by Linda Cohen Wassong to educate the public and raise funds exclusively for comparative oncology research.

Comparative oncology is the study of cancer that naturally occurs in animals, to help find treatments and cures for humans, as well as animals. Through collaboration by researchers of animal and human medicine, comparative oncology seeks novel and innovative approaches to discover treatments and cures for cancer faster and more cost-effectively.

In 2006, Wassong’s cocker spaniel and longtime companion, Puccini, was stricken with melanoma, the same dangerous skin cancer that humans endure. Her dog participated in clinical trials as part of a partnership between veterinarians at New York’s Animal Medical Center and human oncology researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

Through the trials, Puccini’s quality and quantity of life were extended. The treatment he received went on to become the first and only USDA-approved, therapeutic vaccine for the treatment of cancer in animals or humans. The information from the canine clinical trials is being used in ongoing research by MSKCC to investigate potential implications for a human treatment.

“I am thrilled that a number of leaders in the human and animal oncology fields, as well as various experts in many fields, support our cause and have joined our board of directors and scientific advisory council. Animals and people get many of the same kinds of cancers. Our members will help give a voice to this promising science,” said Wassong.

Members of the Puccini Foundation Board of Directors include:

ANTONELLA BORGATTI, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM, Diplomate ECVIM-CA, clinical faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.

JOHN BRADLEY, Principal, Torreyai Partners LLC, New York, N.Y.

MATTHEW BREEN, PhD, C.Biol. M.I.Biol., Breen Lab, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Raleigh, N.C.

CRAIG CLIFFORD, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM, director of clinical research, Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, Tinton Falls, N.J.

ALAN MANEVITZ, MD, clinical associate professor, Payne Whitney-Weill Cornell Medical Center; attending psychiatrist, New York Presbyterian and Lennox Hill Hospitals; instructor, Weill-Cornell Medical School

JOSHUA SCHIFFMAN, MD, medical director, pediatric oncologist, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah

LINDA COHEN WASSONG, founder, Puccini Foundation

The Puccini Foundation Scientific Advisory Council includes:

JEFFREY BRYAN, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM, associate professor and director, Comparative Oncology Laboratory; section chief for oncology, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Columbia, Mo.

FRANCES GULLAND, Vet. MB, MRCVS, MA, PhD., commissioner, U.S. Marine Mammal Commission; senior scientist, The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito, Calif.

JAMES P. HALPER, MD, clinical and research psychiatrist and co-medical director of TMS Medical Associates of New York; Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine, New York, N.Y.

MARY KAY KLEIN, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM, Diplomate ACVRO, Southwest Veterinary Oncology Referral Center; clinical lecturer, University of Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson, Ariz.

C. ANDREW NOVOSAD, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), head of oncology, Animal Diagnostic Clinic, Dallas, Texas

JEFFREY C. PHILIBERT, Diplomate ACVIM, founder, New England Veterinary Oncology Group, Waltham, Mass.

CECILE SIEDLECKI, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM, medical director, VCA Bay Area Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Hospital, San Leandro, Calif.

ANNETTE N. SMITH, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM, professor of oncology and small animal internal medicine, Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn, Ala.

STEVEN SUSANECK, DVM, BS, Diplomate ACVIM, Bay Area Veterinary Specialists, Houston, Texas

ANDREW VAUGHAN, DVM, MS, Diplomate DACVIM, head of medical oncology, Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center, Las Vegas, Nev.

Wassong, along with many of the members of the board and scientific advisory council will be attending the Veterinary Cancer Society (VCS) Conference October 18-21, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nev.  Puccini Foundation Scientific Advisory Council Member Andrew Vaughan is the co-chairman of the 2012 VCS Conference.

The Puccini Foundation launched a new website earlier this year at Wassong’s goal is for the website to become a centralized resource for laymen and medical professionals for all information related to comparative oncology.

“Ultimately, greater awareness will lead to increased funding for comparative oncology research. What we learn from studying cancer in animals can help find treatment and cures for people,” she said.

The Puccini Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 2007. It is dedicated to the hope of a future for pets and people…cancer free. The Puccini Foundation’s mission is to make this a reality by educating the public and raising funds for comparative oncology programs. The Puccini Foundation serves as a resource for the One Health Commission.

For more information on the Puccini Foundation, visit the website or e-mail To make a donation, visit