This year marks the 50-year anniversary since then-President Richard Nixon declared a “war on cancer,” flinging open the floodgates to billions of American taxpayer dollars, which poured into research aimed at defeating this deadly disease.
A half-century later, there is still no cure for cancer. Cancer rates remain unchanged, while cancer prevention resources are limited.
What went wrong? How could such a technologically advanced country fail so spectacularly to find a cure for this disease, despite five decades of nearly unwavering focus from expert scientific minds? Simple: animal experimentation.
Cancer has won the war on cancer
In 1971, when Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, which launched the war on cancer, the disease was the second leading cause of death in the U.S.
Fifty years later, cancer is STILL the second leading cause of death in the U.S.
Officials estimate that cancer killed 606,520 Americans in 2020. About 39% of people in the nation can expect a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives, and despite significant investment in research for cancer therapies, only 67.7% of them will survive for longer than five years after that diagnosis.
All this after 50 years of ineffective, cruel and deadly animal experimentation costing billions of dollars of taxpayer money.
Prevention, not animals, has brought down cancer rates
The most significant victories in the war on cancer don’t come from a lab. They’re personal preventive measures: quitting cigarette smoking, skipping red and processed meat in favor of a plant-based diet, and having regular checkups for screening. These measures have brought cancer rates down 27% over the past two decades.
Yet only 6% of the budget for the National Cancer Institute (NCI)—the federal agency under the National Institutes of Health that’s leading the war on cancer—was dedicated to prevention in 2019.
In fact, the percentage of the NCI’s funds dedicated to cancer prevention and control has stayed relatively stable over the past several years, despite increases in overall budget, most of which goes to research.
Animals are not miniature humans
In crude attempts to understand how cancer develops and can be treated in humans, experimenters graft human tumor cells to mice, inject the animals with chemicals, or genetically engineer them to have cancer-causing genes, then kill them or allow them to suffer and die slowly.
But cancer drugs developed through animal experimentation fail to get approved 96.6% of the time.
The fundamental biological differences between humans and other animals are largely to blame. Other animals are poor stand-ins for humans, plain and simple.
No matter the type of experiment, no matter how intricately designed, and regardless of its cost, experimenters haven’t been able to surmount the biological, immunological, and genetic differences between species.
It’s even led a former director of the NCI to wave the white flag.
“The history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse,” said former NCI Director Dr. Richard Klausner. “We have cured mice of cancer for decades—and it simply didn’t work in humans.”
Animals are also used to try to determine whether pesticides, food additives, and pharmaceuticals might cause cancer in humans.
In each test, hundreds of mice and rats are forced to ingest or inhale chemicals every day for up to two years at a time, causing them nausea, tumors, and death.
These tests fail at accurately identifying potential human carcinogens or protecting human health.
There is a better way
To wage a true war on cancer, scientists must increase resources for cancer prevention, eliminate animal experimentation, and shift research money toward cutting-edge, human biology–based tools that show far greater promise of identifying cancer-causing compounds and generating treatments and cures for cancer in humans.
Tools such as cell-based (in vitro) experiments, human-relevant computer models, human-based tissue engineering, cancer organoids, and epidemiology studies hold the promise of more relevant and reliable methods that may actually win the war on cancer.
For example, tumor-on-chip models are being used to study how immune and cancer cells interact with each other. These models can be personalized with cells from human cancer patients and then used to test drugs.
The responses of the cells can even be observed in real time.
Scientists and computer programmers are using artificial intelligence to generate profiles of cancer cells to identify markers that may be meaningful for drug discovery and may predict drug responses for individual patients.
What you can do
Please sign our petition to the NCI urging it to stop throwing away tax dollars on cruel and useless animal experiments and instead focus on modern, non-animal research methods.
Some facts about it: The history of animal cancer research is a history of failures and failures.
When interferon was discovered in 1957, it was considered the “miracle weapon” against cancer and a number of other diseases.
But the miracle did not materialize.
In the 1960s and 1970s, chemotherapy was celebrated as the new great hope for cancer patients. But in view of the terrible side effects, one wonders whether patients might not die from the therapy rather than from cancer.
In 1992 another cheer from the scientists: the so-called “cancer mouse” was the first mammal to be patented in Europe.
A few years earlier, US researchers had succeeded in inserting a human cancer gene into the genome of mice.
The mice developed cancer early on and should now finally help to fight the disease.
But again the disillusionment followed.
Ten years after the oncouse was patented, Professor Axel Ullrich, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich, only speaks of a “symbolic step” that has remained without “practical significance”.
Other strategies against cancer, such as strengthening the body’s defenses with “immunomodulators”, were nothing but hot air.
There may undoubtedly be some treatment success for some rare cancers.
But the overall balance is more than sobering in view of the billions in investments and the millions of animal sacrifices.
In 2020 there were 510,000 cases of cancer in Germany.
At the beginning of the 21st century, around 340,000 people were diagnosed with cancer each year in Germany; around 210,000 die from the consequences of the disease.
Despite decades of intensive research and billions in investments, the medicine of malignant tumors cannot master.
In order to finally achieve real progress in this area and to actually help sick people, experimentation on animals must no longer be allowed, this archaic research method must finally be a thing of history.
Only research methods that are not tested on animals can make a significant contribution to the fight against cancer.
My best regards to all, Venus