How BioVolume improves animal welfare

How BioVolume improves animal welfare

Breakthroughs that will improve animal welfare in cancer research  

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. With the World Health Organization estimating that the number of new cases could rise by 70% over the next two decades, the quest to find effective disease treatments has never been more pressing. As researchers continue to pioneer the development of new drugs, a number of developments are being made to improve animal welfare while helping researchers to more effectively predict drug effectiveness in cancer patients.Mice have long been used as a valuable tool to study the biology and therapy of human cancers. But important questions remain at the forefront of scientists minds. Just how close are mice to people when it comes to cancer? And how can we improve animal welfare in laboratories?

A new Michigan State University Study has revealed how mice can actually mimic human breast cancer tissue and its genes, even more so than previously thought, as well as other cancers including lung, oral and oesophagus (1). And thanks to the ongoing mission of industry bodies like NC3Rs and AAALAC to drive scientific and technological developments that replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research, major steps forward are being made for animal welfare.

Replacement is undoubtedly the holy grail. One possible alternative to using mice in cancer research is the use of lab-engineered micro-tumours. Encouragingly, a new study has shown some positive results in predicting if cancer drugs will work in patients (2). Innovative approaches like this could herald the way to full or partial reduction in the use of mice in the long-term future, but until proven data is more extensive and the technology is more readily available, lab mice will remain the primary way to test therapies or study disease. Therefore, reduction and refinement must continue to remain top animal welfare priorities. This will help ensure experiments are appropriately designed and analysed to maximise the scientific benefit while using the appropriate number of animals.

The science of cancer research has come a long way in recent years. However, laboratory equipment such as callipers, used as the standard method to measure tumour growth and the response to drug therapy in preclinical trials, has failed to keep pace. This is about to change with the introduction of BioVolume, a high-precision and easy-to-use 3D scanning and measurement platform. 3D scanning has the potential to improve measurement accuracy, inter-operator consistency, compliance and workflow efficiencies. It will also have a major impact on animal welfare. Here’s how it adheres to the principles of the 3Rs:

  1. 3D scanning is non-invasive – callipers require manipulating the mouse which can cause mechanical damage to the tumour and physical trauma to the mouse.
  2. A reduction in handling – Tumours can be measured quickly, in less than five seconds, reducing handling of mice.
  3. Greater confidence in when to stop testing – lab technicians are always mindful to ensure they are not exceeding industry guidelines for the tumour’s maximum measured length, height or width. This can be hard to achieve with a subjective tool like callipers.
  4. A reduction in mice used – greater precision and accuracy of data can help reduce the number of mice used to achieve statistical significance.
  5. No sedation is required – alternative methods for replacing callipers require sedation.

Animal models can be costly and time-consuming. Innovative approaches that replace animal testing as well as new digital technologies like BioVolume that have the power to speed up trials and reduce the handling and number of mice used in studies are good news for global cancer research and animal welfare.