• Question: do you believe experimenting on animals helps you develop cures for cancer in humans?

    Asked by whmegandnath to Blanka on 4 Jul 2012.
    • Photo: Blanka Sengerova

      Blanka Sengerova answered on 4 Jul 2012:

      Very thoughtful question and always a difficult one ethically.

      I have never done any work with animals, but I agree that yes, some cancer research does involve working with animals, mostly mice and rats. The reason is that once the possible compounds have been tested in tissue culture (which means human cells growing in a dish), they need to be tested in much more complex system that is a little like the human body. Although we look so different, many genes and systems are very similar in a mouse as in a human. So some things do get tested in small animals.

      You will be reassured to know that no scientist enjoys harming animals and they all have to follow strict ethical guidelines when doing the research, following the three Rs

      1) Refine – change experiments to make experiments as painless for animals as possible.
      2) Reduce – minimise the number of experiments if possible
      3) Replace – the animals with other systems where possible (tissue culture, computer simulation)

      Emma has written much more about animal experiments here: https://niobiumj12.imascientist.org.uk/2012/07/03/why-do-you-kill-the-animals-after-the-experiment-do-you-not-feel-anything-taking-a-life-witch-did-nothing-wrong/