Summary of several scientific reports

Escrito por Dr Hadwen Trust.

The British Medical Journal in December 2006 carried a detailed assessment of six treatments for different human conditions: brain injury, haemorrhage, stroke, respiratory distress syndrome in newborn babies and osteoporosis [1]. The authors asked whether or not animal experiments had predicted the actual clinical outcome of the treatments.

Replacement research rarely receives coverage in either the lay or professional press. Similarly, robust critiques of the validity of using specific animal experiments to address questions seldom attract wider scrutiny by the research community.

The British Medical Journal in December 2006 carried a detailed assessment of six treatments for different human conditions: brain injury, haemorrhage, stroke, respiratory distress syndrome in newborn babies and osteoporosis [1]. The authors asked whether or not animal experiments had predicted the actual clinical outcome of the treatments.

The systematic review found that for three treatments, the animal and human studies were similar, and for three they were not - an unimpressive 50 per cent success rate. Reasons for the poor correlation between human and animal outcomes included badly designed experiments and a failure of the conditions induced in animals to sufficiently mimic human illnesses.

A subsequent editorial in the same journal [2] drew attention to other reviews which found animal experiments unreliable, and said " ...it seems prudent to be critical and cautious about the applicability of animal data to the clinical domain".

Partly as a result of talks with the Dr Hadwen Trust, the British Medical Journal published an article looking at the replacement of animal experiments [3]. Provocatively titled Animal testing: is it worth it? the article described a number of alternative methods and quoted the Trust several times.

Over at The Lancet, an editorial discussed the recent failure of yet another stroke treatment tested in animals [4]. An experimental drug called NXY-059 had seemed a promising treatment for deliberately induced strokes in rats and marmosets. In a large clinical trial, however, the drug was ineffective in patients. This is the 114th drug of this kind to have succeeded in animal tests but failed in patients. The editorial advised: " Translation of positive results obtained in the laboratory into the clinic has been exceptionally elusive, and the stroke [research] community needs to think long and hard about whether these animal models are financially and ethically viable ".

It is noteworthy that replacement research also received coverage in the non-medical professional media too as we detail below.

References

1. Perel P, Roberts I, Sena E et al (15 December 2006). Comparison of treatment effects between animal experiments and clinical trials: systematic review. British Medical Journal 334:197doi: 10.1136/bmj.39048.407928.BE

2. Hackam DG (2007). Translating animal research into clinical benefit. British Medical Journal 334:163-164.

3. Watts G (2007). Animal testing: is it worth it? British Medical Journal 334:182-184.

4. Editorial (2006). Neuroprotection: the end of an era? The Lancet 368:1548.