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Animal Testing Significantly Advances Cancer Research

  • Posted on May 13, 2014 by Pharma Models Blogging Team in Oncology

Today, patients who are diagnosed with cancer have a much higher likelihood of survival than in decades past. Fifty or sixty years ago, cancer was nearly always assigned a death sentence. Scientific cancer research, however, has brought effective treatments and increased the lifespan of most cancer patients.

The advances that we have seen would not have been possible without animal testing. According to the Cancer Research UK blog, cancer survival rates have grown two-fold in the last 40 years. Animal models has brought significant progress to the treatment of cancer and to determining the causes of different forms of cancer. For instance, the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, leukemia medication imatinib, and the numerous antibody-based treatments have been developed with the help of animal research.

Animal models in cancer research are highly beneficial because they provide a similar body system to determine whether certain treatments will be effective or how certain tumors grow and spread. The National Cancer Institute reported that comparative animal models are used to discover better means for detecting cancers at earlier stages, find new treatments for enhanced patient outcomes, and learn why some patients may be at higher risk while others remain unresponsive to some therapies. Regulations around the globe require medications, including cancer drugs, to be tested in animals before they can be prescribed to patients.

Sometimes, animal research involves altering the genes of mice so that mice express human versions of specific genes, allowing drugs that interact with specific human proteins to interact in a test system that has the same properties. In other models, animals are exposed to chemicals, radiation, or other environmental factors that are known to cause cancer in humans.

Animal models have been used in cancer research for more than a century. In 1907, Clarence T. Little, a Harvard student, used inbred mice to show the importance of immunology during tumor transplantation. Now that scientists have a strong understanding of genetics and DNA inheritance, animal testing provides even greater use within the oncology field.

Mice are the most commonly used animal model in scientific cancer research. There are numerous advantages to working with mice such as their small size, consistent disease development, ease of breeding, and simpler shipping from breeding locations to research facilities.

The mouse was the second mammal (after humans) whose genome was sequenced, being completed shortly after the human genome sequence was finished – and it was discovered that there were significant similarities between the two. Some innovative strategies within animal cancer research include; using genetically engineered (transgenic) mouse models, transplantation models, carcinogen-induced models, and inbred mice.

Several years ago, one study illustrated that a new form of treatment cured mice with an implanted human uterine tumor after 70 days of therapy, according to The New York Times. All of the mice in the control group died after one month. The researchers from the EnGeneIC company also found a similar outcome in dogs with brain cancer.

Without animal testing, cancer research would be far behind the times and mankind would still be suffering from crude therapies that not only fail to extend life, but also give rise to horrific side effects. By using animal models, oncologists have achieved a great amount of knowledge in their field and extended the lifespan of countless patients.

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Categories: Oncology

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