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Our SEIB Giving award!

Published on July 8, 2022

This week Animal Free Research UK was recognised at the annual SEIB Giving awards and awarded £6000 by SEIB insurance brokers for our cutting-edge breast cancer research at Aberdeen University.

It’s a huge honour for our small charity to be recognised – and all the more humbling because the public and SEIB clients voted for us. SEIB received over 20,000 public nominations in the first round of voting for a wide range of charities.

All the finalists are doing hugely important work – from rescuing horses to helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It’s a really tough time for the charity sector, as it is for everyone – austerity, Brexit, pandemic, war in Ukraine, cost of living crisis – these are unprecedented times which have hit our sector hard.

Generous initiatives like SEIB Giving are a beacon of hope – especially for smaller charities like ours that are doing amazing things to support our communities but that can sometimes get overlooked because we don’t have the big budgets or brand recognition of the larger charities.

So I want to say a huge thank you to SEIB Giving for their leadership and generosity – and to everyone who voted for us.

The award from SEIB Giving will help to fund a new Breast Cancer research project which will use cutting-edge technology to study how breast cancer spreads.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women – with 55,000 women diagnosed annually in the UK. While overall survival rates are generally good thanks to early detection and contemporary treatments, if the cancer spreads it is sadly usually incurable.

Approximately 90% of cancer-related deaths are associated with secondary tumours from the spread of cancer cells throughout the body, so it’s really important that we better understand how and why this happens.

Mice, rats, dogs, even non-human primates are often used to study the spread of breast cancer, causing them great suffering.

Yet animals don’t have the same genetic background as humans and therefore this research doesn’t translate into effective treatments for humans. Scientists can cure cancer in mice – but they can’t do it in humans. There is widespread acknowledgement that continued use of animals is a barrier to developing better, more effective cancer treatments.

So new technological advances are needed to develop more effective, closer-to-patient models which use human tissues.

Our project is being led by Professor Valerie Speirs at Aberdeen University. Val is an expert in this area and a founder of the UK’s Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank. Her team has already pioneered the use of cutting-edge organ-on-a-chip technology to accurately model human breast cancer.

Organ-on-a-chip is very cool technology: it comprises small chips on which human cells are grown in 3D which mirror the structure and function of human organs and blood flow on a micro scale.  This allows scientists to analyse how an organ might respond to treatment similar to how it would in the human body.

Val’s team will emulate the vascular system – the blood and lymph vessels – giving them a better understanding of how breast cancer spreads. They will use breast cancer cells from patients, which makes their research much more relevant to humans compared to studying cancer in animals.

We hope that their findings will speed up drug discovery and potential treatments for breast cancer and the spread of breast cancer. And, vitally, give hope to patients and their families – without any animals suffering.



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Too many animals continue to suffer in laboratories rather than enjoying the comfort and security of a happy home. Our work is funded entirely by your generous support, so please make a donation today to help us free animals from laboratories for good.

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