Why Alternative Cancer Treatment

For decades the clinical observation of an association between cigarette smoking and bronchial carcinoma was subject to unfounded doubt, suspicion, and outright opposition, largely because the disease had no counterpart in mice. There seemed no end of statisticians craving for more documentation, all resulting in the fateful delay of needed legislative initiative.
Coulston and Shubick (Eds), Human Epidemiology and Animal Laboratory Correlations in Chemical Carcinogenesis, Ablex Pub 1980, p. 263

Animals in Cancer Research

from Animals & Scientific Research: Cancer Research, published by National Anti-Vivisection Society

In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon initiated a "war on cancer" when he signed the National Cancer Act. Almost 30 years later, the battle is still being waged, with more human and nonhuman casualties than ever.

The statistics are indeed grim: the death rate from cancer actually increased by 6.3 percent from 1973 until 1992. Today, it remains the second leading cause of death in America (after heart disease).

Something is clearly wrong with our battle strategy, and that something is the focus on animal research as a methodology for finding a cure. Despite more than $25 billion invested in animal research since 1971, it has provided little in return.

Why? The answer lies partly in the difference between human and nonhuman animals, and partly in the nature of cancer itself. Human and nonhuman animals are different from each other anatomically, physiologically and metabolically, and so there can be no "perfect" animal model for a human.

Secondly, the disease we know as "cancer" is actually an umbrella term for about 200 diseases that afflict humans exclusively. In other words, these 200 diseases are distinctly human cancers.

Some of these cancers can be seen in other animals, but the specific characteristics of these animal cancers differ greatly from that in human cancer. Most nonhuman cancers arise in the bone, connective tissue or muscle. In contrast, most human cancers arise in living membranes.

Cancer in animals simply does not mimic the human form of the disease. That is why Dr. Richard Klausner of the National Cancer Institute stated in an LA Times article on May 6, 1998:

"The history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse. We have cured mice of cancer for decades, and it simply didn't work in humans."

While cancers of the prostate, colon and rectum are considered "common" cancers in humans, they occur only rarely in rodents. When they do occur in rodents, the nature of the disease is quite different than in humans. For example, colon cancer kills rats by obstructing the colon; in humans, the disease kills by spreading to other parts of the body.

The problem with attempting to conduct human cancer research on another species is illustrated by this startling fact: When the National Cancer Institute treated mice growing 48 different kinds of human cancers with 12 anticancer drugs currently being used successfully in humans, the drugs only worked in animals in 30 out of the 48 cancers. (from Sacred Cows and Golden Geese: The Human Costs of Experiments on Animals by C. Ray Greek, M.D. and Jean Swingle Greek, D.V.M.)

Another issue with using animals in cancer research (and in all disease research) is the fact that scientists must induce cancer in their laboratory subjects, and induced cancers are much different in their characteristics than naturally occurring cancers.

Animals in the laboratory who experience the stress of confinement and who are often irradiated or force-fed highly concentrated doses of carcinogens to give them tumors make scientifically invalid laboratory subjects.

Given the failure of the animal model in cancer research, have we made any progress at all? Yes. Tremendous progress has been made through epidemiological studies (i.e. observing the incidence of the disease in the population) .

The first chemotherapy drugs were discovered when field medics during World War I noticed that mustard gas caused a reduction in the white blood cell counts of soldiers, thus paving the way for the development of medicines to treat leukemia and lymphoma.

Clinical research — close observation of humans — has dramatically improved the treatment of breast cancer while sparing women from mastectomies. None of the most successful chemotherapy drugs, including those used in childhood cancers, were discovered through animal studies (from Sacred Cows and Golden Geese: The Human Costs of Experiments on Animals by C. Ray Greek, M.D. and Jean Swingle Greek, D.V.M.).

Perhaps most significant of all, analyzing specific population groups and their lifestyles, scientists have determined the link between cancer and smoking, and cancer and consumption of a high-fat diet.

In fact, according to the World Health Organization, up to 90 percent of all cancers may be preventable. Rather than invest resources in animal research — which has yielded virtually nothing of value — one of the most important strategies in winning the war on cancer is to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

And that would be by eliminating the lifestyle and environmental factors that cause most cancers, such as smoking, lack of exercise and high-fat diets.

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About the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS)

Founded in 1929, the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) is an educational organization whose ultimate goal is the elimination of animal use in product testing, education and biomedical research.

For more than 70 years, we have sought to identify the cruelty and waste of vivisection and to convince the general public to work actively for its ultimate abolition. We strive to educate researchers, physicians, manufacturers, teachers and government leaders in the discovery of new, humane methods that will save millions of animals each year and still give our children a safer, healthier and happier future.

Driven by our mission statement, our efforts are focused in the following areas:

Public Awareness
Student/Teacher Outreach
Legal/Legislative Issues
Science Programs
Special Initiatives/Cooperative Efforts


The National Anti-Vivisection Society is a national, not-for-profit educational organization incorporated in the State of Illinois.

NAVS promotes greater compassion, respect and justice for animals through educational programs based on respected ethical and scientific theory and supported by extensive documentation of the cruelty and waste of vivisection.

NAVS' educational programs are directed at increasing public awareness about vivisection, identifying humane solutions to human problems, developing alternatives to the use of animals, and working with like-minded individuals and groups to effect changes which help to end the suffering of animals.

WHAT IS VIVISECTION? — Vivisection is the practice of cutting into or using invasive techniques on live animals or dissecting the bodies of animals. Anti-vivisectionists are people who oppose these practices for ethical and scientific reasons.

WHAT DO WE BELIEVE? — Anti-vivisectionists oppose animal experimentation for many reasons. First, we believe that it is inhumane to confine animals in an artificial environment, which deprives them of experiencing the ecological niche nature intended for them.

These animals may be subjected to extreme pain, deprivation and distress, and their lives of agony often end in a premature and horrible death. Equally important, however, is the undeniable fact that as a scientific methodology, animal experimentation is often invalid and misleading.

Years of research have shown that imposing disease symptoms in an animal during an artificially controlled laboratory experiment cannot adequately predict or duplicate human disease. What's more, basic physiological, metabolic and chemical differences among human and nonhuman animals often produce conflicting results.

Animal experiments also waste money and resources. Although the U.S. government spends billions of dollars a year on animal research, studies show that medical intervention has contributed little to the longer, healthier lives Americans now enjoy. Such wasteful practices often sidetrack meaningful scientific progress, which can help more people.

WHEN VIVISECTION BEGAN — Animals have been used as surrogates in the study of human biology since earliest times. The practice of vivisection can be traced to ancient Greece, when physicians and philosophers curious about the inner workings of the human body cut open live dogs tied to wooden boards.

In the mid-1700s, the effects of gases on research animals were first recorded. By 1918, scientists had developed methods for exposing animals to other chemicals. In the years following World War II, animal experimentation increased dramatically, as government funds for medical research became more available.

Today, as many as 100 million creatures a year may be used in federally and privately funded experiments. While an estimated 90 percent of all animals used in research are rats and mice, many other species are also used, including guinea pigs, dogs, cats, rabbits, nonhuman primates, farm animals and even humans.

WHERE IT HAPPENS — Animals are used as tools for research and education in product testing laboratories, medical facilities and classrooms all over the country. Despite the intent of the National Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966, these animals are often kept in substandard conditions.

Countless living creatures suffer and die each year to determine the safety of consumer products, to seek treatments and cures for human illness, and in an attempt to teach students about human biology.

All of these are noble goals, but the disturbing truth is that these innocent creatures are sacrificed needlessly because there are other scientifically valid and far more compassionate ways to ensure public safety, further medical progress and educate our children.

WHY WE NEED YOU — Those of us who work to end animal experimentation are part of a large, fast-growing animal advocacy movement that seeks to end all forms of animal abuse.

We are committed to change, but change can only take place with the support of people like you, who have the courage and compassion to stand with us in the struggle to create a better future for all animals.

You can help the animals by learning more about the issues and sharing your thoughts with your family and friends. As the saying goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step."

NAVS also offers brochures for download.

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