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Breast Cancer Varies Among Humans

In yet another example of humans responding differently to drugs and disease, triple negative breast cancer has been discovered to be more common in African and African-American women. The University of Michigan:

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that, among women with breast cancer, 82 percent of African women were triple negative, 26 percent of African-Americans were and 16 percent of white Americans were.

Triple negative is one the most lethal breast cancers. The study was published in the journal Cancer.

Animal models, on the other hand, have misled scientists in the past and this has resulted in human deaths.

Penicillin stayed on the shelf for over a decade because the rabbits Flemming tested it on led him to believe it would be ineffective in humans. Scientists were misled about HIV enters the human cell because of studies on monkeys. The polio vaccine was delayed by decades because the way monkeys responded turned out to be very different from the way humans reacted. The cardiopulmonary bypass machine killed the first patients it was used on and it was only after human data was used that the machine was safe. Studying strokes and brain hemorrhage in animals has led to multiple medical treatments that worked in animals but that resulted in harm to human patients. HIV vaccines that protected monkeys have actually increased the risk of contracting HIV in the volunteers that took the vaccine. The flip side of all this is the fact that society has also lost cures and treatments because scientists believed the results from animals.

The National Cancer Institute has said that society has lost cures for cancer because the drugs either affected animals adversely or did not work in the animals. So animal testing does not keep dangerous drugs off the market but does keep cures off the market. This is one reason drugs cost so much. Instead of testing on animals we need to test drugs against a patient’s genes to see whether the drug is good or bad for the individual. We discuss the above in our book FAQs About the Use of Animals in Science: A handbook for the scientifically perplexed.

Science is on the verge of offering personalized medicine. This is medical treatment tailor made for you personally. Not for your mother or father or even your twin. This is in stark contrast to medical treatments based on and tested on animals. If a woman suffers from breast cancer today, her physician will look at her genetic makeup and then determine which treatments are best. This determination factors in the genetic makeup of the woman and the genetic makeup of the cancer. Two sisters that have identical cancers may have different treatments because of subtle genetic differences. Examples like this could be expanded if society stopped funding research with animals and instead funded human-based research. Would you rather take a medical treatment designed for you or one tested on a monkey? 


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