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Dutch institute hails use of animals in cancer research

EARA member the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) has celebrated the 10th anniversary of its animal facility with a symposium highlighting the importance of using animals in cancer research.

Former NKI scientific director, Professor Anton Berns (pictured), opened the event with a powerful statement that the ‘importance of animal research will not diminish’.

In an interview for NKI, Professor Berns explained how his research career into cancers has depended on genetically modified mice to, for example, identify and understand cancer-causing genes.

He said: “There are numerous examples of animal experiments that revealed the function of genes that we never could have obtained through in vitro analyses.”

Prof Berns also pointed out that the study of complex cells interactions and evolution is still challenging to do outside of living organisms.

While he recognised that new in vitro methodologies should be developed and used to replace animal experiments, once those techniques could reliably answer the questions posed, he added: “Unfortunately, the pressure to fully switch to these alternative methods is concerningly high in the Netherlands.”

“Given the unique knowledge and expertise we have aggregated at the NKI, we have to convince the government, funding agents, and the public of the importance of the animal research we do and the service we provide to external investigators.”

During the symposium, researchers from NKI and other institutions, including KU Leuven/VIB, Belgium (also EARA members), and The Jackson Laboratory, USA, also spoke about why and how animals are used to model human cancers.

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