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Fighting Cancer: Animal Research at Cambridge

A new film from the University of Cambridge looks at how mice are helping the fight against cancer and the facilities in which they are housed, and explores issues of animal welfare and the search for replacements

by University of Cambridge

Animal research plays an essential role in our understanding of health and disease and in the development of modern medicines and surgical techniques. Without the use of animals, we would not have many of the modern medicines, antibiotics, vaccines, and surgical techniques that we take for granted in both human and veterinary medicine.

Some of the important and pioneering work for which Cambridge is best known and which has led to major improvements in people’s lives was only possible using animals, from the development of IVF techniques through to human monoclonal antibodies.

The school says it places good welfare at the centre of all its animal research and aims to meet the highest standards: good animal welfare and good science go hand-in-hand. As part of the university's commitment to openness, in the new film, they look inside one of their facilities, where mice are helping scientists understand how cancers develop and how they can best be treated.

The university's mice are housed in state-of-the-art facilities. Each animal is checked daily to ensure it has enough food and water and to look for signs that the animal is in pain, no matter how mild. The school uses some of the same imaging techniques used on humans, such as ultrasound – the non-invasive technique that allows doctors to monitor the health of a baby in the womb – to monitor tumor development in the mice.

Although animals will play a role in biomedical research for the foreseeable future, the univeristy strives to use the minimum number possible. Their researchers are actively looking at techniques to help the school reduce – and ultimately replace – animal use. In the film, the university explores a new technique to develop ‘mini-livers’ that will allow scientists to screen potential new drugs without the use of animals.