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We’re happy to announce an advance in the battle against a common cat cancer.

A big shout out to Dr. Shana Owens from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Recently, she won a prize, the Governor’s Cup, for developing a test for cats that can detect a virus that causes a deadly cancer of the digestive tract, GI lymphoma. 

It’s the same cancer that our own Marmalade overcame after diagnosis in 2014. That’s right – Marmalade is a cancer survivor. Here’s a picture from 2021:

Marmalade in 2021, cancer in cats, cat cancer

A Common Cat Cancer

In Marmalade’s case, no diagnostic test was available for Felis catus gammaherpesvirus 1 (FcaGHV1), which causes common cat cancer. Moreover, the virus was only recently discovered when vets diagnosed Marmalade. 

Marmalade at the vet ,cat cancer

Marm at the vet

32% of Cats Affected by the Virus Causing Cat Cancer

Notably, the “herpesvirus” is a widely endemic potential pathogen of domestic cats. According to research, it affects as many as 32% of cats worldwide. Now, thanks to Owen’s work, who knows how many cats can be saved? By detecting the virus early, vets have a chance to stop cancer at an earlier stage. Therefore, this is a tremendous breakthrough!

Once the rapid test is available, veterinarians can determine if a cat has the virus in minutes from a small blood sample.

Dr. Shana Owens from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Shana Owens, Ph.D., presents her research. Images via UAMS news

Owens Invents the Test for a Project

Amazingly, Owens, a postdoctoral fellow, invented the new test as a project for a competitive entrepreneurship training program with an Arkansas college of business.

According to the UAMS website, “Owens was aware that, like humans, cats are susceptible to viruses that cause cancers.” After interviewing veterinarians, she learned that gastrointestinal lymphoma is the most common cat cancer they treat. Also, she learned the cancer stems from the virus, but there wasn’t any diagnostic test. So, she set out to solve that big problem.

“GI lymphomas are such a big problem that local vets want answers, so they’ve been helping our team develop the prototype,” Owens said.

Dr. Shana Owens from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Dr. Shana Owens from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

In March 2021, she proposed creating a test to program leaders. Incredibly, she had secured a provisional patent by November. According to her statement, she never thought this would happen.

“This really snowballed. If you had asked me a year ago if I would be working on an assay for cats right now, I probably would have told you you’re crazy,” Owens said. “Now we’re looking at dimensions for shipping in boxes and thinking about where we would manufacture and store our products.”

What an amazing journey from discovering a need to getting ready to send out a solution to the world!

GammaFlow Test to Help Fight Cat Cancer

Following her incredible class project, Owens founded the GammaVet company as CEO! Now, her team will use the prize money to help get the test, GammaFlow, to market. Then, vets will finally have a diagnostic test in their hands. Thus, it will help untold numbers of cats like Marmalade lick GI lymphoma. 

At the same time, Owens’ future will change as CEO of a new business. We wish her much success and hope it will help cats everywhere.

Since the virus in question is related genetically to the one in humans, researching cats could lead to helping people too. Recently, we’ve seen it when it comes to studying cats’ DNA and its relation to the human genome. Did you notice that helping cats always seems to help people in amazing ways every day?!

Marmalade licking cat cancer

 

 

 

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