START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
1,524,175 people care about Health Policy

Which Cancer Treatment Works Best? Ask Your Personalized Mice

Which Cancer Treatment Works Best? Ask Your Personalized Mice

It is not news that mice are used to test new drugs for diseases such as cancer. But it is now possible to have your very own “personalized animal model” for testing treatments for the tumor in your body.

While scientists have been implanting tumors into animals for decades, companies are now offering what some researchers are calling “avatars,” animals who can be injected with a part of the tumor that you have, says the New York Times. Researchers can then try different experimental (i.e., not FDA-approved) drugs and treatments on the mice.

That is, these mice are not lab mice. They’re mini-me mice.

The National Institutes of Health even held a workshop about personalized animal models earlier in September (pdf). Mice avatars are also being used to learn about how Type 1 diabetes develops and a scientist from Washington University in St. Louis has injected bacteria from human stomachs into that of mice, to investigate the effects of dietary changes.

The advantage of using tumors “freshly implanted from patients” instead of tumors cultured in a laboratory dish is that they are more closely resemble the conditions that humans have. As one University of Utah breast cancer researcher, Alana Welm, says “It’s the closest we can get to the real deal.”

Experts emphasize that there is no proof that the avatars can actually lead to efficacious treatments; a more practical way to determine if a drug may work in a patient is to test tumors for genetic mutations. As insurance does not cover the use of mice avatars, people can be paying tens of thousands of dollars to implant the animals with diseases but with minimal results, except for some dead avatars. In addition, a treatment that works in a mouse may not work in a human being:

…the stand-ins are not perfect surrogates. A tumor implanted under the skin of a mouse might not behave the same as it did in the human breast, lung or other organ from which it was extracted. Unlike people, the mice are bred to have a deficient immune system, so they will not reject the human tumor.

There are also practical problems. Sometimes, patient tumors do not grow in the mice at all, and it takes at least four months to create enough mice to test a reasonable number of drugs.

The tumors, bacteria and such are surgically implanted into the mice (hairless as they are bred to have deficient immune systems) under anesthesia.They are killed “if the tumor is removed for transplanting into more mice or is causing too much suffering.”

Most of those using avatars to find treatments for their diseases told theNew York Times they felt no “personal attachment” to the mice who share a very intimate link with them. 9-year-old Michael Feeney has Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, and pieces of a tumor from his lungs are now in a number of mice avatars, on whom researchers are testing different drugs. His mother says that he was a “little upset to hear we would be giving mice cancer and that we might kill them” (or rather, actually will kill them), while noting that if they do point the way to a treatment to save her son, she will “love these mice forever.”

Is it too much to presume that a drug that works in a specially-bred mouse would have the same results in a human being? Is using animal avatars to find cures for individuals any different than using animals for lab tests and scientific experiments?

Related Care2 Coverage

Feds “Retire” 110 Chimps…By Sending 100 of Them To Another Research Center

Homeless Pets Won’t be Used in Experiments in the UK

Organ Chips” Could Replace Animal Experiments

Read more: , , , , , ,

Photo of hairless lab mice by Mike Mitchell (National Cancer Institute) via Wikimedia Commons

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

129 comments

+ add your own
5:19PM PDT on Oct 19, 2012

Animal testing is wrong and is something that should have been stopped a very long time ago.

2:06PM PDT on Oct 16, 2012

Bonjour,

Human are not animals and animals are not as human being.

If a scientist continue to do experiments with animals and think that he will succeed, this is not the right way.
For example, you have the placebo effect. This is quite strange if you are considering only chemical effect.
A scientist could not see how the "spiritual nature" of a man is part of the equation.
Look at real twins, they have the same "biological" part, but how they could be different in life, in feelings emotions, in goals they would like to reach...

Also, look at nurses in hospitals. They are surrondeed with "viruses"... They continue to work and to be effective. They do not succom to diseases.

We must change our viewpoints. Diseases are not only done by some small "bacterias"... they are "built" by individuals, education, societies, civilizations..

Let's change our viewpoints about of "what is a disease" and "what is a human being".


3:32PM PDT on Oct 14, 2012

Its time to change the experimental design to study cure for cancer or any disease. I fully in favour of doing away with the use of animals in biomedical research and start adopting tissue culture! Why the unnecessary and unethical sacrifice when we have the knowledge and technology to conduct experiments without involving and causing suffering to animals? Wouldn't the use of tissue culture from the subject him/herself would yield a more near to real results?

10:16AM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

"Mit W, if experimenting on mice could cured cancer, it would have years ago. It's time for medical science to put away their toys of yesterday, and come into the new world of stem cell research and human skin growth research, that the rest of the world is using."

1) Their protests to using mice was philosophical. It doesn't matter if the mice proved to be a cure all for cancer, it still would be better to leave the cancer victims to their fates than use the mice.

2) How do you know this approach won't lead to cures for cancers? It's another tool in the tool box against cancers. Unlike stem cells, these put the cultured tumors into a biological system that much more closely models us than any petri dish of stem cells could.

8:21AM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

Mit W, if experimenting on mice could cured cancer, it would have years ago. It's time for medical science to put away their toys of yesterday, and come into the new world of stem cell research and human skin growth research, that the rest of the world is using.

If a cure for cancer is found, it won't be by us, using outdated and useless methods. And it will be partly your fault, for not insisting that your tax dollars are not basically dumped down the drain of outmoded idea.

8:16AM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

@Gael M. , Linda B, and L.C. and everyone else who put the mice ahead of cancer victims:

Boy, am i glad i'm not one of your children and i pray none of yours ever falls seriously ill.

Here,here to Christina B. !

11:32AM PDT on Oct 5, 2012

very sad news but thanks for sharing

6:47PM PDT on Oct 4, 2012

Stop Torturing Animals!! It doesn't work and it doesn't need to be done.

6:54AM PDT on Oct 4, 2012

This is why we have bad drugs why not test on humans,this is cruelty to animals in its true form stop testing on animals,use human subjects and there will be no bad drugs from a false test with an animal,they are not the same as humans thier systems are not the same no where near it these are just excuses for tortureing the poor animaals that are unluky enough to come into thier hands,it is cruelty to animals something we fight every day to prevent and here they are getting away with it right in front of us I want to know why this is an explaination for this I do not see one because there is't one.

6:54AM PDT on Oct 4, 2012

This is why we have bad drugs why not test on humans,this is cruelty to animals in its true form stop testing on animals,use human subjects and there will be no bad drugs from a false test with an animal,they are not the same as humans thier systems are not the same no where near it these are just excuses for tortureing the poor animaals that are unluky enough to come into thier hands,it is cruelty to animals something we fight every day to prevent and here they are getting away with it right in front of us I want to know why this is an explaination for this I do not see one because there is't one.

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

meet our writers

Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!
ads keep care2 free



Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.