Animal Rights

Differences Within and Among Species

| by Dr Ray Greek

Elizabeth Landau of CNN posted the article Many studies great news for mice, not so much for humans. She states:

Potential cancer vaccine! Possible anxiety treatment! Scientific studies looking at potential therapies for physical and mental illness often sound exciting -- that is, until you read further and realize they're in mice . . . Generally, small studies like the cancer one appear to fit the adage "great news if you're a mouse," said Lois Parker, senior pharmacist at Massachusetts General Hospital. It's just too soon to draw meaningful interpretations from the available data. "If it's just in rodents and only in a small number of rodents, personally I find it hard to get that excited about it," she said. "Maybe that's unfortunate, because maybe some of that stuff is worth getting excited about." But there's a large time gap from lab to clinical practice, she said . . .

In terms of cancer, it is difficult to translate animal models to human applications because a human tumor takes several years to develop, and rodent studies often just inject human tumors into the rat or mouse, said Dr. Gabriel Lopez-Berestein, professor of medicine and cancer biology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. In general, animal models give some hints about how to use cancer drugs in humans, he said. "But by no way should we be overexcited about it; we should be cautious about how to interpret that data" and in applying cancer studies in rodents to humans, he said.

Compare the above with the editorial Putting gender on the agenda from Nature:

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Differences in the physiology of males and females, and in their response to disease, have been recognized for decades in many species — not least Homo sapiens. The literature on these differences now encompasses everything from variations in gene expression between male and female mice, to a higher susceptibility to adverse drug reactions in women compared with men. Moreover, hormones made by the ovaries are known to influence symptoms in human diseases ranging from multiple sclerosis to epilepsy.

Society is slowing acknowledging the fact that animals cannot predict human response to drugs and disease and that even individual humans reacts differently. Both of these articles point to the importance of abandoning animal-based research and testing in favor of human-based research and testing. The funding pie for research and testing is finite. Society cannot fund everything. Ethically studying patients with cancer should take priority over inducing cancers in mice.

For more about cancer research and differences between humans please see Animal Models in Light of Evolution