Cancer research in animals is vigorously defended and continues to be a large user of finances and animals.  But the case for it continuing is weak.  Almost all cancer research is conducted on rodents, who have almost no similarities with humans regarding cancer.


Does a mouse get human cancer?

“Most cancer research is done on mice using a tumour type called a sarcoma, whilst human tumours are o a different type called  a carcinoma” (world-recognised cancer expert R Peto, World Medicine, vol 15, no3, 1979)


“Sarcomas arise in the fibrous tissue, muscle, fat, bone cartlidge, blood and lymphatic vessels, carcinomas arise within the tissue that lines the skin and internal organs o the body.” (Martin, EA Concise Medical Dictionary, 4th Edition, Oxford Uni Press, 1994)


“There are many differences between the tumours that have been translated into nude mice and the ones that are still in humans.  For example: cell cycle parameters, growth rate, metastatic spread, invasive properties, origin of stroma, pharmacokinetics, and the metabolism of the tumour-bearing host are different from the situation in the cancer patient.” (Boven, Epie and Winograd (Eds) “The Nude Mouse in Oncology Research” CRC Press 1991 p92)

 To read more about the differences between animal and human illnesses, click here.

Chemical safety screening

“The standard carcinogen tests that use rodents are an obsolescent relic of the ignorance of past decades.” (Dr P Abelson, Science, 21st Sept 1990, p1357)


As late as 1993 it was argued that tobacco did not cause cancer, based on animal tests.  Animal tests have consistently failed to show a link between smoking and cancer. (New York Times Dec 6 1993)


Drug company Pfizer assessed the tests that are routinely used to verify whether the animal model was effective.  They found accuracy rates were extremely low (37%) and concluded “we would have been better of to have tossed a coin.” (D Salsberg, Fundamental and Applied Toxicology, 1983, vol 3, p63-67)


Of chemicals classed as dangerous in animals, 79% were not either a definite or probable carcinogen in humans.  Experts concluded: “...validation studies have found the rodent bioassay to be lacking in human specificity (ie the ability to detect human non-carcinogens)...or even human sensitivity (i.e. the ability to detect human carcinogens at all)...” (Prof Jarrard Bailey, ATLA 34, 19-27, 2006)


 See more on using rodents to screen chemicals for cancer-causing properties here.



“Indeed, the evidence shows that instead of helping doctors, researchers working with animals have held back medical progress and have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.” (Dr Vernon Coleman, ‘Why Animal Experiments Must Stop’ European Medical Journal, 1994, p71)


[Animal carcinogenicity tests on new drugs are] “inaccurate, insensitive and generally misleading.” [Dr John Griffin, Director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry quoted in trade magazine Scrip, 2nd Oct 1991 p23)


“God knows we’ve cured mice of all sorts of tumours.  But that isn’t medical research.” [Thomas E Wagner, Molecular Biologist, The Columbus Dispatch, 20 March 1998)


“Apart from other important biochemical and morphological differences these cancers do not produce metastases, that is, just that development which in man is the principle cause of the fatal outcome of the disease, and a disease which cannot be produced, either by physical or chemical means, even in monkeys...” (Prof Pietro Croce ‘Vivisection or Science: A choice to make’, p46)


“The chief objective is to keep us all employed, and to make sure we do interesting experiments so that we can come back to these nice places.” (Dr P Shubik, animal experimenter (cancer) speaking at an extravagant conference. “Human Epidemiology and Animal Laboratory Correlations in Chemical Carcinogenesis, p 309)

Animals generally react very differently to drugs.  To see more, click here.


The search for new drugs


“The US National Cancer Institute treated mice growing 48 different human cancer with which they had been implanted.  They used 12 different drugs which were proven successful in humans, and in 30 cases the drugs were useless in mice.” (Science vol 278 7th Nov 1997, p1041)

The US National Cancer Institute tested 40,000 plant species on animals for anti-tumour activity.  From all this, all positive animal results were useless for humans.  A lab handbook concluded “despite 25 years of intensive work and positive results in animals not a single anti-tumour drug emerged from this work.”    [JCW Salen “Animal Models – Principles and Problems” in “Handbook of Laboratory Animal Science” Sevendsen and Hau (eds) 1994, p4]  The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) now has 60 different types of human cancer in cell culture, and the facility to test 20,000 compounds each year against them. []


The first chemotherapy drug, Actinomycin-D, was discovered by accident in humans.  [Coley, W, 1983, Postgraduate vol 8]  It later fell into disuse because it was toxic in animal tests, and only resurfaced when people were confident that the animal results were not relevant. [Sokoloff, B. 1952, ‘Cancer, New Approaches, New Hope’ Devin Adair Co, New York]


“While conflicting animal results have often delayed and hampered advances in the war on cancer, they have never produced a single substantial advance in either the prevention or treatment of human cancer.” [Irwin Bross, former director of Roswell ParkMemorial Institute for Cancer Research in evidence to US Congress, 1981]


Dr Richard Klausner, director of the US National Cancer Institute states: “We have cured mice of cancer for decades – and it simply didn’t work in humans.” [LA Times, Wednesday May 16, 1998]


“Boy, we can cure mice like nobody’s business, but when it comes to humans we have a harder time” [Jim Mullen, chief executive of Biogen Idec, The Financial Times 19 Dec 2003]

Read the opinion of more experts here.

Other illnesses have been the subject of high profile claims in favour of animal testing.  Read the reality here.