JoAnna Lou
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An Alternative to Lab Testing
Family pets help test experimental cancer treatments.

A new alternative to traditional laboratory testing helps assess cancer treatments for humans, while providing options to dying pets. Dogs have become more favorable to researchers because they experience cancer in similar ways to humans. Like their two-legged counterparts, canines develop secondary cancers and become resistant to drugs over time.

Unlike studies of the past, scientists don’t induce illness in the subjects. The experimental treatments are made available to pets already diagnosed with cancer.

Participating dogs continue to live at home while their family collaborates on the research, keeping detailed records on quality of life and behavior. Maintaining a normal living arrangement contributes to a more realistic reaction to the illness and treatment as compared to the more traditional laboratory rat living in a controlled environment.

Some of the experimental treatments have undergone human testing and require animal testing for regulatory reasons, but most have not been tested in humans at all.

Currently 19 veterinary institutions in the U.S. have trials underway, while Europe is still evaluating whether they want to test drugs using this new method.

After writing about the history of animal testing in June, it’s heartbreaking to learn what we’ve subjected animals to in the name of medicine. While there are ethical implications with any kind of testing, I’m glad that scientists are exploring ways of developing treatments that consider the welfare of those who have advanced the medical breakthroughs that we rely on. 

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.


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