Database Facilitates Reduction in Number of Animals Used For Breast Cancer Research

A NEW database is allowing researchers to share and search for surplus animal tissue from their peers’ previous experiments on breast cancer. It is reported that >200 scientists have already signed up to use the new tool.

The SEARCHBreast database has been designed to allow breast cancer researchers to access and use remaining mouse tissue in order to reduce the number of animals needed for biomedical research. Several mice are typically used in a single study in order to produce reliable study results but usually only a very small proportion of each tissue sample is required for an experiment. The surplus material is often no longer of immediate use to the researcher so it is placed in an archive.

Rather than relying on new animal models to carry out each study, SEARCHBreast allows researchers to access the archived material. The database is led by Prof Valerie Speirs from the Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK, who said: “As scientists, we are always looking for ways to reduce the number of live animals we use in research. In oncology though, and particularly breast cancer research, the best option we currently have to study how tumours develop and respond to drugs is animal tissue, so animals have to play a part.”

The online resource was launched in 2014 and it was recently reported to have 220 scientists from the UK, European Union, USA, and Australia signed up. It offers 90 animal models for researchers to access, representing thousands of tissue samples available for use. SEARCHBreast is the first prototype for the Sharing Experimental Animal Resources, Coordinating Holdings (SEARCH) Framework which aims to make material derived from animal studies more visible and accessible to the scientific community. The founders of the website are now planning to extend the platform beyond breast cancer research.

“We want to foster a culture of collaboration, and by doing this, we are reducing the number of animals needed for research all round. We have shown this concept works for breast cancer and our research shows a desire from scientists in other disciplines to adopt SEARCH in their own field,” Prof Speirs said.

Jack Redden, Reporter

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