Working in partnership with MedImmune, the biologics R&D arm of AstraZeneca, we organised a workshop to explore how the 3Rs can be used as a foundation for minimising both animal use and drug attrition in oncology research. The workshop report summarising outcomes of the event is now available: Minimising animal use in target-to-function biology in preclinical oncology research.
At the workshop, held in 2015, around 100 researchers who are active in the cancer research field from academia, the pharmaceutical industry and biotechnology companies came together to define challenges and opportunities for improving preclinical modelling of cancer while reducing animal use.
Over 60,000 rodents were used for cancer research in the UK in 2014, according to Home Office figures1. This is likely to increase, due to advances in three key areas: development of immunotherapies and biosimilars; the increased use of personalised medicine and ‘avatar’ mice; and the need for testing drug/drug or drug/radiotherapy combinations. The procedures involved can cause suffering and distress to the animals. Surgery is often required to implant tissue, and tumour development can restrict normal behaviour and cause pain, depending on the site of growth.. At the same time, the attrition rate of drugs under development for cancer is among the highest of all indications, and the likelihood that a cancer drug is approved after having entered clinical trials is just 7% 2. Current rodent models often show limited translation to the clinic, and this lack of concordance between animal models and human cancer contributes to attrition and hinders development of more efficacious treatments.
To tackle the challenges around translation and animal welfare, workshop participants first identified the scientific, clinical and 3Rs-related challenges in functional cancer biology. This included exploring application of new and emerging technologies, use of alternative models and the potential of resource- and data sharing in preclinical oncology research.
The report summarises the recommendations emerging from the workshop discussions and opportunities for the future, to reduce animal use and increase predictivity of cancer models, including the need for collaboration, investment in robust in vitro technologies and the use of human tissue.
Visit the science research page 'Assessing the predictive power of animal models in cancer research' to read more about the NC3Rs-led work in this area.