Inspired to save our animal companions

1.Katherine Howard and Peter Williamson

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Man’s best friend is getting a better chance at a longer life, thanks to Katherine Howard (Mtax ’01), her husband David Simmons and University of Sydney researchers.

Katherine and David’s generous gift has enabled Associate Professor Peter Williamson (PhD (Vet Science) ’93) and his team to investigate the cause and treatment of canine lymphoma in the bullmastiff breed.

Katherine and David have a strong personal connection to this cause. Their much-loved bullmastiff, Maple, died from lymphoma, and they decided to support canine lymphoma research as their way of making a difference.

Called the Maple Simmons Lymphoma Research Project, Katherine and David are providing support for this initiative through the Faculty of Veterinary Science to prevent the premature death of pets.

“We are supporting the University’s research into lymphoma in Australian bullmastiffs in the hope that future owners will not suffer the same loss of a much-loved companion animal,” says Katherine, who is also an alumna of the University (with a Master of Taxation Law).

Katherine has gained the support of the bullmastiff community, securing 189 DNA samples from bullmastiffs around Australia and almost 300 health surveys required for the lab work. She is deeply connected to the project and meets with both Sally Mortlock (the PhD scholarship recipient) and Associate Professor Williamson every year to hear about progress.

Associate Professor Williamson supervises both Sally’s work and the canine lymphoma research supported by Katherine and David. He joined the Faculty of Veterinary Science in 2003 as a principal research fellow in functional genomics and became Associate Professor, Physiology and Genomics, in 2008.

Through his research he aims to investigate the genetic mechanisms behind the high rates of lymphoma in bullmastiffs.

“Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in dogs, with some breeds exhibiting an extremely high rate of disease,” he says. “Bullmastiffs are one such breed that has been identified as having a high incidence of lymphoma. This suggests a genetic predisposition to the disease and provides us with a unique opportunity to investigate the genetic mechanisms behind it. We are also looking at how our findings may be applied to other breeds or more generally to canine cancer.”

Find out more about the Maple Simmons Lymphoma Research Project.