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Research Using Animals

Our position on animal research

Our ultimate goal is to see no life cut short by cancer, and we believe this can be achieved by driving forward research into new and better ways of preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer.

Research methods are improving all the time, but there is still so much that can only be found out through research using animals. This is why we believe properly regulated animal research is both necessary and justified when there is no other alternative.

Around 50% of projects we currently fund use rodents, frogs, fish, or fruit flies. The rest of the research we fund uses non-animal based methods such as studying cells grown in a lab, analysing patient tumour samples, using computers for drug design and analysis of ‘big data’, and carrying out biochemical and molecular experiments.

Applying the ‘3Rs’

We do not fund animal research lightly, and in accordance with UK legislation, we will not fund research using animals unless there is no other alternative.

When we do fund research involving animals, each project must adhere to the principles of the 3Rs, a legislative framework for humane animal research which works to replace, refine, and reduce the use of animals in research. To make sure these principles are applied, we ask for the researcher to provide a lot of specific information in their application which can be assessed by our expert panel of scientists. They must explain in detail how the animals will be looked after and used, and also justify the number of animals needed for the project.

Funding research outside of the UK

We are an international funder of research. As well as applying the 3Rs, we will only fund animal research outside of the UK where we are confident that there are adequate ethical review procedures and animal welfare standards in place, along with a sufficient level of regulatory oversight. Our Trustees use several benchmarks to decide which countries or institutions meet the criteria of an acceptable standard of laboratory animal welfare.

Read our Animal Research Funding Policy in full for more details.

As a member of the AMRC we fully support their statement on the use of animals in research.

Why animal research is still needed

Non-animal methods are becoming more and more advanced. Around half of the research we fund does not use animals, and these methods provide us with essential data and insights. But sometimes the only way to get to the bottom of a problem and see what really happens in the body is to study animals.

Animal models are not perfect, but they are the best model we have. This is why it is the law to study all drugs in animals before they are licensed for use in humans.

Cancer research involving animals has already yielded a vast bank of essential knowledge about how to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer, which we could not have accessed any other way. And this knowledge has already helped millions of patients. For example, the established cancer therapies we have now could not have been developed without animal studies. Treatments like the breast cancer drugs tamoxifen, herceptin, and aromatase inhibitors, new treatments for leukaemia and other blood cancers, and the HPV vaccine which protects against cervical cancer.

Understanding Animal Research has detailed resources explaining how animal research has helped in the fight against cancer and other diseases.