Dr. Mark Suckow, former faculty member and Associate Vice President of Research at the University of Notre Dame has dedicated his research career to understanding ways to stimulate the immune system against cancer. Specifically, his research focused on tissue vaccines, a way to utilize a patient’s own tumor tissue and antigens unique to in vivo growth of the cancer. Utilizing this approach, he demonstrated an effective anti-tumor response is associated with the enormous menu of antigens that are part of the tumor and surrounding stromal tissue.
However, around Christmas 2010, he received terrible news that his family’s Labrador retriever, Sadie, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma and given less than a month to live. It was Dr. Suckow’s daughters that convinced their father to utilize the research he had been working on in his lab to develop a personalized cancer treatment for Sadie. Using a portion of Sadie’s resected tumor, he created the immunotherapy that was given back to her over the course of a month. Her metastatic cancer with multiple tumor nodules began to recede and stopped spreading.
Sadie survived for more than three years, cancer free, before dying of natural causes. Dr. Suckow’s research led to the formation of Torigen Pharma, a company focused on providing personalized cancer immunotherapies to the veterinary market.