Tag Archives: cancer

Marking 50 years of biomedical research with minipigs

EARA member Ellegaard Göttingen Minipigs has marked 50 years of the company at its Scientific Symposium, in London, UK, which also looked at future biomedical research uses for its animal model.

After Lars Friis Mikkelsen (pictured), CEO of Ellegaard, opened the Symposium, a series of lectures explained the growth of the company and its long-term collaboration with the University of Göttingen, which originally bred the minipig, and examined the ways that the animal is used in toxicology testing. 

Peter Vestbjerg of Ellegaard, explained that the Göttingen Minipigs is a good non-rodent model due to the adaptability of the minipig and its well managed genetics.

Examples of how minipigs are being used to test toxicity on compounds under development for Alzheimer’s and for anti-cancer drug development were given by Joanna Harding of AstraZeneca, and Sally-Anne Reynolds of Sequani, respectively.

From the University of Edinburgh, Michael Eddleston focused on translational medicine between animals and humans and how we can modulate human self-poisoning in Göttingen minipig models. “Pigs do save lives”, he said.

Henrik Duelund Pedersen of Ellegaard, concluded the symposium by listing the specific advantages of mini pigs in studies for dermal toxicity and reproduction among others.

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Cancer studies see rise in use of animals in Netherlands research

Increased biomedical research into cancer has seen a rise in the number of procedures using animals in the Netherlands, the latest statistics show.

The annual figures for 2017, show an overall increase in the number of animals used (in Dutch), with 530,568 procedures being conducted: 80,694 (17.9%) more than in 2016.

In 2017, more animal tests were conducted with zebrafish (research into anti-cancer drugs and an EU-funded project into hormone-disruptors that affect the human body) and mice (various investigations, particularly cancer research).

In addition, under a new EU reporting requirement, the number of animals that were bred, but were killed or died without being part of an animal test, was 448,252 animals, (see Additional Animals note).

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Why Belgium still needs animal testing in the fight against cancer

In a piece first published in the Belgian news magazine Knack (in Dutch), Prof. Damya Laoui, from the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB, an EARA member), in Belgium, together with Dr. Liesbeth Aerts and Dr. Jeroen Aerts from Infopunt Proefdieronderzoek (IPPO, also an EARA member), explain that researchers don’t take the use of animals in biomedical research lightly. 

Many people are critical of animal testing, and from an emotional point of view this is very understandable. Animals are living beings. They have basic emotions and they also experience physical pain. As researchers, we are not blind or insensitive to animal suffering, but neither can we ignore the pain of almost 10 million people who die of cancer worldwide every year.

In 2018, some 70,000 Belgians received a new cancer diagnosis. Fortunately, their prognosis is in many cases a lot better than for people who received the same diagnosis 10 or 20 years ago. Thanks to advances in biomedical research – including through animal testing – the treatment options for cancer are rapidly expanding. Nevertheless, the number of cancer cases continues to increase as well, and the disease continues to take many lives.

To the people who claim that we can face this challenge without animal research, we would say: please walk the talk. From our hands-on experience as biomedical researchers, we would like to argue for greater nuance in the debate against animal testing. Let’s bust some often heard myths:

Myth One: Animal testing is no longer necessary because we can get the same results through computer simulations

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Nobel Prize awarded for turning the immune system against cancer

This year’s Nobel Prize winners for Physiology or Medicine used animal models to develop their novel cancer therapy.

James P. Allison, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, USA, and Tasuku Honjo, of Kyoto University, Japan, discovered in mice a way of unleashing immune cells to attack tumours by turning off the safeguards in the immune system that prevent it from attacking human tissue.

In turn, new drugs can now be developed offering hope to patients with advanced and previously untreatable cancer. Immune checkpoint therapy is already used to treat people with the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma.

Cancer kills millions of people each year and is one of humanity’s greatest health challenges. By stimulating the inherent ability of our immune system to attack tumour cells this year’s Nobel Laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy. Continue reading

Another year of medical achievements thanks to animal research

A look back by EARA at some of the important discoveries in recent times

The last year has once again seen an impressive list of medical achievements globally, as scientists find better treatments for devastating diseases.

Among the breakthroughs reported are:

  • Human trials are now closer for an Ebola vaccine with a team at UW–Madison School of Veterinary aiming to produce an experimental vaccine (March 2018) that has already been proven to work safely in monkeys.
  • Researchers at University College London have announced (Dec 2017) that there is now hope for a way to stop Huntington’s disease, described as the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases in 50 years.
  • 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded with help of fruit fly (drosophila) study. The discoveries of the group of scientists who worked on the project show how plants, animals and humans co-ordinate their biological rhythms with the Earth’s daily cycle.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “There is no doubt that we would not see the remarkable advances in biomedical research that have occurred recently, without the use of animals.

“While alternative methods to animal research, such as computer models and cell cultures are important, testing using animals remains the safest and most effective way to produce drugs and treatments for us all.”

Animal research is integral to ongoing research in areas such as spinal cord repair, stem cell treatments (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), gene therapy (muscular dystrophy, diabetes) and molecularly targeted cancer medicines.

Historically, animal research has also led to new diagnostic tests for early treatment (cancer, heart disease); and effective treatments for serious illnesses (diabetes, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease).

The same research often helps humans and animals (treatments for arthritis, neurological disorders, organ transplants, cancer therapies) and contributes to farm animal welfare and techniques to save endangered species.

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First cases of cancer in naked mole-rats reported

Naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus glaber) are remarkable animals that are widely studied in ageing, stroke and cancer research, thanks to their longevity, ability to survive in low-oxygen environments and resistance to developing cancer. But in a case study published in Veterinary Pathology at the start of this month, scientists submitted the first ever reports of full-blown cancer in two naked mole-rats.

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