New cancer 3D technology helps to reduce animal experiments

Over £4 million for 13 research projects that aim to replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research and testing was announced on 26 July 2010 by the NC3Rs.

The NC3Rs today announced 13 research grant awards, as part of its annual Research Funding Scheme that aims to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in experiments (referred to as 'the 3Rs').

The scheme funds key UK projects that will advance knowledge and application of the 3Rs and improve laboratory animal welfare.

This year, over £4m will be invested in projects on topics including the cause of multiple sclerosis, influenza research, understanding drug addiction, cancer cell biology and epilepsy.

Minister for State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: "The coalition government supports the efforts of the NC3Rs to minimise animal use in scientific research. These awards help to keep the UK at the forefront of advances in the 3Rs as we seek breakthroughs in treating serious illnesses."

Dr Louis Chesler from the Institute of Cancer Research has been awarded a grant for his work which aims to replace mice used for cancer drug development by modelling cancer cells in 3D clusters. These are better mimics of real cancers than the currently used 2D cultures which are grown on flat dishes. This new model means that scientists will be able to measure cancer growth and spread more effectively, potentially reducing the number of mice used by over 40,000 per year.

Dr Chesler said: "We are very pleased to be awarded an NC3Rs grant. By developing new tests in 3D, we can increase the efficiency and accuracy of preclinical drug development. The benefits of this research will not only help reduce the number of mice used, but our end goal is to improve treatments for paediatric brain cancers, and ultimately all paediatric cancers." 

NC3Rs Chief executive, Dr Vicky Robinson said: "I am impressed by the diverse projects that we have selected for funding, which demonstrate the commitment to the 3Rs by some of the UK's leading scientific teams. 

"In recent years the number of animals used for experiments has increased and now is an especially important time to be looking at ways to bring the numbers down. We must continue to involve the UK's brightest minds in this challenge and the work of the NC3Rs will help achieve this." 

The NC3Rs is the largest funder of 3Rs research in the UK, supporting research across a range of disciplines. To date it has awarded grants totalling nearly £17 million.

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