The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) has awarded two grants totalling almost £900,000, to Brunel University’s Professor Robert Newbold and Swansea University’s Professor Gareth Jenkins, funds that are to be implemented in fundamental research to develop new testing methods, based on human-cell structures, for cancer-causing chemicals, a move that aims to reduce the number of animals used in tests in the years ahead.
Testing chemicals that are used in the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and consumer-products industries to establish the likelihood of their causing cancer (carcinogenicity testing) still requires a great deal of animal experimentation, with up to 800 rodents used for each substance and around 12,500 laboratory animals used annually in the UK.
Finding alternatives to animal tests for assessing cancer risks to humans that are faster, more efficient and which benefit animal welfare is an urgently important issue, as the current carcinogenicity studies are time consuming and expensive and are of limited practical use in large-scale chemical evaluation programmes such as REACH, the European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals. In addition, the 3Rs (‘Replacement’, ‘Reduction’ and ‘Refinement’ of animal research) focus on an area of biological research where there is a real need to advance one or more of these legislation criteria concerning animal testing and research. NC3RS are confident that their grants to Professors Newbold and Jenkins will deliver tests that will benefit both animals and the industries in which they are used across the EU and Europe.
In particular, rodent cell-based in vitro tests for detecting a chemical’s potential to damage DNA and/or cause mutations (genotoxicity assays) are already used in regulatory carcinogenicity testing strategies, but are felt to be limited as stand-alone tests, due to their high rate of misleading positives (where chemicals that do not damage DNA in vivo are wrongly classified as potential carcinogens), which then require animal experiments for clarification. For more information concerning the awards, click here.