The Animal Replacement Centre of Excellence (ARC) , funded by a £1 million investment by Animal Free Research UK, aims to maximise and build upon a long-standing successful partnership with the Blizard Institute, a pioneer in the development of in vitro human research models.
The ARC uses cutting-edge science to advance human models for human disease and aims to reduce the number of animals currently used in cancer research by providing a unique environment for scientists to work together with the common goal to develop, validate and apply human-based models of disease. It also aims to inspire the next generation of scientists through education about animal free research and further funding opportunities. Professor Mike Philpott and Dr Adrian Biddle drive the cutting-edge research.
Humane human skin cancer model
Professor Philpott’s research focusses on growing human cells to replicate real human cell tissue. He does this by taking unwanted human skin left over from cosmetic surgery and growing the cells in three dimensions. To investigate skin cancer, these cells can then be manipulated by expressing proteins and genes that cause tumours to develop.
Instead of comparing grown human skin cancer models to induced cancer in mice to see if they behave the same way, they are compared to real human cancer skin samples from hospital patients. This cuts out the need for mice completely.
Targeting problem-causing tumour cells
Some tumours shrink after successful treatment, but then grow back again. Dr. Adrian Biddle’s research aims to answer why some of these tumour stem cells survive initial cancer treatments and then go on to form secondary tumours away from the initial growth site. Most researchers use mice models to study the complex mechanisms of tumour cells travelling through the body. Yet Dr. Biddle argues that
[tumour spread] needs to be investigated in a controlled environment where you can look at every step – you can’t do that in an animal.
He is therefore developing a more pertinent way to model this process using human cells in a dish, with a goal to identify and target the problem-causing tumour stem cells.
With your help, we can fund intelligent and innovative cancer research that uses human skin left over after cosmetic surgery.