by Coleman Cornelius
A family of devoted dog-lovers concerned about cancer has continued a legacy of commitment by pledging $10 million to the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center, where the momentous gift will nearly double operational funds in support of renowned work to conquer cancer in both animals and people.
The gift comes from the Hadley and Marion Stuart Foundation, led by siblings Nan and Brett Stuart of Longmont, Colo., and is the single largest contribution in the history of CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center. The donation also will complete the funding of two endowed academic chairs.
Since 1983, when E. Hadley Stuart first brought one of his golden retrievers to CSU for cancer care, the Stuart family has provided a total of about $22 million for the Animal Cancer Center’s research and clinical treatment of naturally occurring canine cancers. The center has grown to house the world’s largest group of scientists studying cancer in pets, and much of its work suggests new approaches in human cancer treatment.
“This new gift reflects Hadley Stuart’s legacy and the close 30-year relationship we have so greatly appreciated between the Stuart family and the CSU veterinary cancer program,” said Dr. Rodney Page, a medical oncologist and director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center. “This gift will truly sustain our work, and we cannot sufficiently express our gratitude to the Stuart family.”
Dr. Stephen Withrow, an acclaimed surgical oncologist and center founder, often calls the CSU Animal Cancer Center the “House that Hadley Built,” a nod to the seminal support provided by the late Hadley Stuart and his family foundation. Withrow, a University Distinguished Professor, is transitioning to retirement.
The Hadley and Marion Stuart Foundation was established by heirs to the founder of Carnation Milk Products Co., a family dairy turned industry-leading food company best-known for its condensed milk. The company’s concern about animal well-being was embodied in the promise of “milk from contented cows.” Nestle S.A. acquired Carnation Co. in 1985.
For Hadley Stuart’s descendants, concern about animal well-being has largely focused on supporting cancer treatment in dogs and the scientific quest for a cancer cure. Cancer is a leading cause of death in both dogs and people, with many similarities between species.
“This level of support sets the cancer center on a sustainable path as a leading innovator in translational cancer research and patient care,” Page said, referring to discoveries in animal cancer that translate to human medicine. “It creates possibilities for pursuing exciting opportunities in cancer care and cancer research in perpetuity.”
The $10 million gift also will add to endowments for the Stephen J. Withrow Presidential Chair in Oncology, which is held by Page, and the Stuart Chair in Oncology, which is held by Withrow. Academic chairs are mechanisms for funding the research laboratories and emerging discovery efforts of eminent faculty members.
During a recent visit to CSU, benefactor Nan Stuart said she and her brother were motivated to donate $10 million to continue their father’s interest in veterinary training, cancer treatment and leading-edge research at the Flint Animal Cancer Center.
Her own interest is personal: One of her beloved golden retrievers, Keester, suffers from brachial neurofibrosarcoma, a malignant nerve sheath tumor off the spinal cord. A CSU team, known to Stuart as “Team Keester,” developed a new radiation protocol and rehabilitation plan that reduces pain for the 8-year-old dog.
This treatment has been essential because Keester and Stuart’s other golden retrievers are active, award-winning service dogs that are highly trained to perform emergency rescues from swift water and ice. Stuart’s dogs have helped to train thousands of emergency responders through Code 3 Associates of Longmont, a nonprofit Stuart founded to provide professional animal disaster response and training.
If Keester were completely sedentary, her quality of life would plummet, Stuart said.
The Stuart family – whose golden retrievers “are as important to us as food and water” – has had three other dogs treated at the Flint Animal Cancer Center for hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive tumor of the blood vessels, Nan Stuart said. It has provided the family an inside look at the center’s work.
“Our cancer team is the most fantastic group of people imaginable. It’s phenomenal,” Stuart said.
Like her father before her, Stuart said, she wholeheartedly believes in the CSU center’s mission to treat cancer in pets while also pursuing scientific discoveries that hold promise for curing cancer in all species.
For instance, Withrow developed a limb-sparing surgical technique to treat osteosarcoma, a malignant tumor of long bones in dogs. This technique revolutionized osteosarcoma treatment in dogs and has been widely adopted at human cancer centers, significantly increasing the likelihood that children diagnosed with osteosarcoma will be cured. The work demonstrates how canine cancer research has a far-reaching influence on human medicine.
“The best cancer work,” Stuart said, “is right here.”
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