Animal research is sometimes associated with medical advances. However, despite decades of animal research, we still have no effective drugs for stroke, Alzheimer’s, or the majority of cancers; these are not rare diseases. We need to transition away from animal research and instead use approaches that are firmly based in human biology. To develop treatments for humans we need to study humans in ways that are more reliable, more precise and more ethical.
MARC BEKOFF: Many people, including researchers, recognize that animal models of human disease don’t work as well as their colleagues and others claim that they do… An outstanding book by Pandora Pound called Rat Trap: The Capture of Medicine By Animal Research – and How To Break Free… “blows the lid off decades of dogma.” As it aptly states on the back cover, “With logic and clarity, Dr. Pandora Pound comprehensively dismantles the case for animal research, ending the 150-year-old debate about its value once and for all. Without discussing any distressing details she reveals the shockingly poor science upon which most animal studies are based and hence their ultimate futility”… Here’s what Pandora had to say about her landmark book:
MB: Why did you write Rat Trap?
PP: A lot of evidence has accumulated in the scientific literature over the last decade or so and I wanted to bring that evidence out of the pages of journals and make it available to the public. This evidence points to the human suffering that results from animal research. Humans suffer because animal research is unable to reliably ensure the safety of new medicines and because it’s unable to generate safe and effective treatments for even our most common diseases. Despite decades of animal research, we still have no effective drugs for stroke, Alzheimer’s, or the majority of cancers; these are not rare diseases—they touch most families in some way and they kill and disable millions of people globally. And although new drugs are tested on animals prior to human trials, these drugs can behave in unexpected ways when they are first taken by humans; even licensed drugs regularly have to be withdrawn because they prove to be unsafe and sometimes fatal once they are used in the general population.
But I also wanted to be the bearer of good news, so Rat Trap showcases the awe-inspiring new technologies now available such as ‘organs-on-chips’. These technologies are directly relevant to humans because they are based on human biology. It’s not surprising then, that evidence is beginning to suggest that they outperform animal tests in their ability to detect drug toxicities…
MB: What are some of the topics you weave into your book and what are some of your major messages?
PP: I draw on new scientific evidence that has become available over the last decade or so, showing that animal research doesn’t translate to humans in a reliable way. This lack of reliability is due to species differences: even very small differences between animals and humans can lead to significant changes in outcomes, which is obviously an issue in drug development. It means that we can go down lots of blind alleys when we try to apply findings from animals to humans.
Animal research is sometimes associated with medical advances, but it’s hit and miss and we can do better than hit and miss. For this reason, the book argues that we need to transition away from animal research and instead use approaches that are firmly based in human biology. To develop treatments for humans we need to study humans. Human-relevant approaches have developed in leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades and they make medical research much more reliable because they cut out the ‘middle mouse’. It makes no sense to investigate diseases in animals and then try to apply the findings to humans. It is much more sensible to study humans directly. And we now have so many ways of studying humans non-invasively — ways that are more reliable, more precise and more ethical…
MB: Are you hopeful that as people learn more about the failures of animal models of disease they will call for more effective and humane non-animal alternatives?
PP: That is my fervent hope. I hope Rat Trap can play a part in changing people’s minds about animal research. Things are changing and there are many optimistic and positive developments, but at the same time, there are organisations and individuals trying to resist change. So we all need to put pressure on governments to take a lead in supporting a transition away from animal research and towards scientifically valid, relevant, human biology-based research. SOURCE…