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Can human in vitro brain tumour methods replace animal research?

Karen Pilkington in vitro brain tumour researchDr Karen Pilkington is assessing whether current human in vitro methods can be used to replace animal-based studies in brain tumour research. The results of her work will also provide the basis to prove that human in vitro methods can be used to replace animal research in other disease areas.

How will this research help validate animal free research methods?

We need a large amount of evidence to prove that human in vitro methods can be used to replace the use of animals in research.

We can put together a clear body of evidence by finding all of the in vitro studies that have been conducted in one research area, sorting them by relevance, assessing their quality and then, if appropriate, combining their results. The process of doing this is called a systematic review. Systematic reviews provide stronger evidence than single studies alone.

Methods for finding, assessing and combining the results of clinical (human) studies were developed some time ago. These systematic reviews of clinical studies are widely used by health professionals in making decisions on treatment. The systematic reviews have also revealed important research gaps and helped determine what clinical research is required in the future.

At the moment, there is no agreed systematic approach to identifying, assessing and bringing together the results of human in vitro studies to assess their quantity, quality and potential to replace animal studies. Dr Pilkington aims to bridge this gap.

Dr Pilkington and her team will start by collating all of the published human in vitro brain tumour research. They will sort the studies by the type of brain tumour, technique used and the types of question they could be used to answer.

They will then determine the quality of the research using a set of criteria. These criteria will be established by interviewing leading and emerging researchers, journal editors, grant awarding bodies and analysing other systematic review papers.

Finally, they will make recommendations on how the studies could be combined in a series of systematic reviews to answer specific questions about brain tumours, such as how they develop and how drugs should best be used to treat them.

What is the impact of this research?

The results of their rigorous and comprehensive review will reveal the whole picture of current human in vitro brain tumour research knowledge. The results can then be used to assess the potential of human in vitro research studies to replace in vivo (animal) studies.

It will also identify any gaps in the knowledge for future scientific investigation and help inform non-specialists about human in vitro brain tumour research.

Furthermore, undertaking the results of this project will additionally pave the way for providing strong evidence that human in vitro methods can replace animal research in other scientific areas.

Are there any other benefits?

The systematic process of comprehensively reviewing research in a specific area can also reveal:

  • Poor research practices;
  • Unreliable reporting of research;
  • Unnecessary replication and duplication of research studies.

If left undetected, these practices could result in costly, unethical research practice involving the unnecessary use of animals. Dr Pilkington’s work will prevent this from happening. Read more about her work over on our blog.

How you can help

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