Here, at Patients Campaigning for Cures, we highlight the fact that although animal models are a very minor part of research, despite not allowing scientists to predict responses of human patients they still receive the lion’s share of research funding
Below we outline some of the ways treatments for human patients have been harmed or delayed because of misleading results produced by animal experiments
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 turned 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 National Cancer Institute has said we have lost cures for cancer because studies in rodents have been believed.
The above examples can be multiplied. Added to which, 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?
There are 2 points that need to be made:
1. Society does not need new research methods it simply needs to fund the ones we already have. For example, performing research on animals is not going to solve the problem of drug resistant infections. Research in physics on the other hand might because physics offers society the chance to design nanomachines that will mechanically destroy the bacteria. Regardless of the bacteria’s genetic makeup it can be mechanically crushed or chewed up. So society needs the knowledge that would come from underfunded research areas like physics, chemistry, genetics, epidemiology, clinical research and so forth.
- 2. Society needs to make a fundamental change from animal-based research to human-based research. If it is humans we are trying to help then scientists must study diseases and drug reactions in humans. This is already being done but again funding needs to be increased to these areas. The way to accomplish both number 1 and 2 is to stop funding research that does not work, thus freeing up the money that needs to be spent on the research where future cures will come from!
Further examples of animals not reacting the same as humans
Cancers in mice have been cured but the cures did not work in humans. Humans respond to tobacco and asbestos by suffering from cancer while most animals do not. Smoking leads to heart disease in humans not animals. High chol leads to heart disease in humans not animals. Babies of mothers who took thalidomide in the late 1950s early 1960s suffered severe birth defects but animals for the most part did not. Rabbits reacted to the penicillin PCN administered by Fleming in 1929 very differently than humans. HRT was administered to women based on animal studies. Every drug that kills people tested safe on animals. (Melanoma in dogs is malignant in nailbed, eye, and mouth.)
Plavix is an anticlotting drugs that is not effective in some people. Plavix is converted by a CYP enzyme in the liver to another chemical that actually does the work of preventing blood clots. If the patient has 2 copies of a variant of the gene coding for this particular CYP enzyme then the drug will not be converted into the active chemical and about 14% of Chinese patients have this variant. However, even patients that have only 1 copy of the variant can also be affected.
Other drugs that are metabolized or processed differently in some way by the body include Iressa, methotrexate, 6-mercaptopurine, codeine, tamoxifen, warfarin aka Coumadin, and succinylcholine. We also know that drugs like 5-FU-based chemotherapies, aspirin, and opiates or other drugs that act on Kappa receptors have effects that vary between the sexes. All of this at least in part explains why 90% of drugs work in only 30 to 50% of the people.
Physicians have realized for decades that people respond differently to drugs. Because of the Human Genome Project and various spinoffs we now have a lot more data about this.
Men are affected differently than women by diseases like cardiovascular diseases and myocardial infarction. But there are a lot more examples.
Caucasians and African-Americans have a similar prevalence of early age-related macular degeneration. However, the progression to the late form of this disease is very rare for African-Americans while being common in Caucasians. Similarly, infantile hemangiomas of the skin are commonly seen in Caucasians but are rare in African-Americans. Certain breast cancers are less common in young black women but usually much more lethal than in young white women even when socioeconomic factors are taken into account. Among cigarette smokers, African Americans and Native Hawaiians are more susceptible to lung cancer than whites, Japanese Americans, and Latinos.
Breast cancer is a good example of a disease that is now treated based on the genotype of the patient and the tumor. It seems like every week another study links a gene to a disease.