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Research Uses for Animal Models

Cancer researchers use animals for a variety of investigative projects.  Their systematic use to understand human biology and physiology began centuries ago, and continues today.  Their use as resources for studies on heredity dates to the 1850s.  Their application to translational cancer research questions is more recent, particularly since the advent of the ability to make specific modifications of the animals’ genes.

Maximizing models to increase our knowledge of the biology of normal and malfunctioning cells, to improve the efficacy and safety of chemical and non-chemical interventions, to identify means to prevent or delay the onset of cancer with awareness of susceptibility and risks, and to aid in imaging and other diagnostics to ensure the best treatment strategies are employed offer serious benefits to public health. 

In this section we will explore many of the general ways that animal models have been employed, and supplement the discussion with selected individual cases that illustrate these approaches.  These examples do not endorse any specific approaches, compounds, or conclusions from the research.  They are provided as samples of the types of research that have been undertaken using a given model system.  As each cancer type and stage can be different, a wide range of creative approaches paired with the selection of the appropriate model system will depend on the goals of the researcher and the tools and techniques available.  The advantages of some small animal models are that they are small and have fast generation times.  The advantages of some larger animal models are that they have larger tissues and have longer generation times and can be followed over time.  All of the animal models in use are subject to animal use policies and guidelines, yet enable many types of experimentation that are not possible in humans.

Researchers are striving to develop better models to improve the speed and accuracy of model systems, and to deliver the most effective translation to human health.  Explore the navigation links at the left to learn more about the uses of various animal models in cancer research.