Rowan J Milner, Ph.D.

Hill's Professor of Oncology

College of Veterinary Medicine

2019 Awardee

Rowan Milner’s goal is create true disease models of human cancer by looking at naturally occurring cancers in canines.

As most preclinical cancer research endeavors use mouse models and human clinical trials, canines fill a unique research niche. Their clinical presentation and genetic makeup of the disease is nearly identical to that of humans.

“We’re in an era where scientists around the world have recognized a gap between molecular level research breakthroughs and practical clinically applicable therapies, Milner said.

Milner’s research mission and talents intend to step into that breach.

Cancer therapy in animals, as in people, has remained largely unchanged for close to three decades and continues to heavily rely on chemotherapy drugs with a narrow therapeutic range and moderate efficacy.

Milner’s work has focused on paradigm shifting therapies that are aimed at using novel targeted therapies to improve the efficacy in killing cancer cells while simultaneously decreasing risks to healthy cells.

Specifically, he has been active in the development of targeted radiopharmaceuticals — radioactive drugs that can be paired with a molecule to accumulate in tumors. Currently, he is working on a cancer vaccine that trains the patient’s immune system to specifically recognize and attack the cancer cells.

Milner also emphasizes the importance of translational research by taking a molecular level discovery and moving it to a clinical setting.

“We’ve been able to treat companion animals with naturally occurring cancers,” he said.

As of 2019, Milner has been the recipient of the Pfizer Award for Veterinary Research, a national research award. He has also received state recognition in the form of Clinical Researcher of the Year presented by the Florida Kennel Club, and he has been awarded several university recognitions such as the Faculty Enhancement and Opportunity Award.

Milner has authored and co-authored 58 peer-reviewed articles and has been awarded multiple extramural grants from foundations and industry sponsors in support of his research, including a Pfizer-funded prospective clinical trial of his novel cancer vaccine for the treatment of canine melanoma and another for the treatment of bone cancer.