When asked at what point her passion for animals began, Judy Wilpon said, “I’ve had a love for animals for as long as I can remember. We always had dogs, cats, and even a parakeet while I was growing up. No horses, even though I wanted one desperately. My dad was a dentist in a tiny town in Michigan and there were no obvious chances for horses in my future at that time. I think I must have been born with a love for horses and dogs.”
Judy’s introduction to the Baker Institute came from her veterinarian, Dr. Henry “Hank” Travis, a 1974 graduate of Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine and an active Baker Institute Advisory Council member at the time. In 1994, Judy was asked to join the Advisory Council. She had wanted to be a vet growing up and was intrigued by the research and discoveries being done at the Institute. She felt this would be her opportunity to help the animals she loved so dearly.
Throughout her time on the Council, Judy became especially interested in cancer research and made the decision to endow the Judy Wilpon Professor of Cancer Biology, a title currently held by Dr. Scott Coonrod, whose main research at the time was on human breast cancer.
Judy had experienced the devastation of canine cancer firsthand, having lost three entire litters of Golden Retrievers, ranging in age from 2 to 9 years, to the disease. The tipping point came when Judy lost her outstanding obedience, agility, and TDI therapy dog, Lefty, to hemangiosarcoma. This lethal canine cancer is so insidious that its presence is rarely noticed until an affected dog collapses or the tumor has spread throughout the body. The survival rate is almost zero.
It is vital to identify hemangiosarcoma early in an animal’s life, but this early detection is not yet possible.
When Coonrod joined the Baker Institute, his research seemed most likely to aid in this project. His goals became supported by the Judy Wilpon Professor of Cancer Biology Professorship. But research of this type requires time, effort, and money. Dedicated to the fight against cancer and inspired by her love for animals, Judy has pledged additional support to spearhead the Institute’s research on hemangiosarcoma. The project is being expanded to accelerate research on this devastating disease. With additional funding matching this generous donation, the team will have the ability to speed up researching the best ways to identify, mark, isolate, or eliminate the genes that lead to hemangiosarcoma, thereby ridding future generations of dogs of the disease.
“The research needs more support for hemangiosarcoma to be detected earlier in the animal’s life”, Judy said. “Together, we can help Dr. Coonrod and his team at Baker achieve great advancements toward a solution which will save the lives of millions of dogs.”
If you’d like to support the Institute’s Hemangiosarcoma Task Force, please visit caninecancer.bakercornell.org