We work hard to reduce the number of animals that we use for our research by providing substitutes whenever possible.
When there is no alternative to the use of animals in research, we do our utmost to reduce the number of animals used in a project.
To do this, we:
- regularly review our existing projects to ensure that only the minimum number of animals are involved
- require our project leaders to reduce the number of animals they use where possible
- encourage researchers to use statistical experts to advise on the design and analysis of their experiments. This means they can then calculate the smallest number of animals needed for any project
- manage our own breeding programmes so that we can avoid or minimise the risk of surplus animals.
Reduction case study: New laboratory methods reduce the use of mice in cancer drug development
Dr Adrian Biddle is pioneering ways to grow a particular type of cancer cell in the laboratory (in vitro) rather than in mice (in vivo) to develop anti-cancer drugs.
Between 2012 and 2015, the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) funded a Fellowship for Dr Adrian Biddle to study the biology of cancer stem cells (CSCs). This then led to the development of the Animal Replacement Centre at QMUL, funded by Animal Free Research UK for the advancement of animal replacement in cancer research.
Dr Biddle's work as part of this Centre has enabled new ways of studying CSCs, and their role in metastasis, without requiring the use of animal models. His work has the potential to dramatically reduce the numbers of mice that are used to develop treatments for cancer, and he has recently been awarded a further major grant from the Medical Research Council to continue this work.
When developing drugs to target CSCs, researchers often transplant human cancer cells into mice in order to monitor tumour development and response to anti-cancer drugs. Not only is this time-consuming and costly, but it involves using large numbers of mice that can experience discomfort and distress due to tumour growth.
Developing in vitro ways to study cancer cells is a significant advance in reducing the use of animals in cancer research.