Researcher receives top accolade at graduation

Professor John Munday graduated with a Doctor of Science at the Massey University graduation ceremony in May this year. The Doctor of Science (DSc) degree is attained by researchers who have significantly advanced science in a given field in the years since attaining their Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Doctor of Science degrees are rarely given with typically only one DSc awarded every two years by Massey University.

Prof Munday’s thesis was “Cancer in Animals: Novel causes and ways of predicting biological behavior”

As in humans, cancer is a common cause of disease and death in animals. The 77 published manuscripts contained within this dissertation can be divided into three main themes. The majority describe studies investigating the role of viruses in cancer development in animals.

Prior to this research, viruses were not considered to be a cause of cancer in animals. However, the results showed that, as in humans, viruses can cause a proportion of cancers in cats, dogs, and horses.

During the research, nine novel virus types were detected and these viruses were fully sequenced and classified. In addition, methods to determine whether or not a cancer was caused by a virus were developed and the research culminated in the development of a vaccine that could potentially be used to prevent some cancers in cats.

The second theme of the manuscripts contained in the dissertation is the investigation of non-viral factors that may promote cancer in animals. This revealed that a small subset of animal cancers had a genetic predisposition.

Finally, the dissertation contains studies investigating novel ways to better predict whether an individual cancer will progress and spread. The ability to better predict cancer behaviour is essential to improve how we treat cancer in our pets.

In addition to the manuscripts in the thesis, Professor Munday has written numerous book chapters describing the results of these studies and is considered a world expert on the development and behaviour of cancer in animals.

As was as being a trustee for Healthy Pets NZ, Prof Munday teaches Veterinary Pathology at Massey University and is the Research Director for the School of Veterinary Science.

Check out his current and previously HPNZ funded research into feline squamous cell carcinomas on our research page.