Animal-free breast cancer research receives funding boost

Animal-free breast cancer research receives funding boost

Professor Valerie Speirs has won funding to improve an existing animal-free laboratory model of breast cancer.

Professor Speirs received a share of £585,000 awarded jointly by the National Centre for the Replacement Refinement and Reduction of Animal’s in Research (NC3Rs) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) from the 2019 Skills and Knowledge Transfer funding competition. The CRUK competition facilitates the exchange of models, with proven 3Rs potential - Replacement Refinement and Reduction of animal’s in laboratory research - between laboratories and institutions. 

Professor Speirs’ new project builds on previously received NC3Rs funding.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women. Scientists use a range of models to study this in the laboratory and often these involve using animals.

In this project, Professor Speirs will implement a closer-to-patient, model of breast cancer, which is completely free of animals or animal-derivatives. This will use cells growing in the laboratory in a three-dimensional environment, in a substance called Hydrogel.

This provides support for cells, mimicking how these are in the human body. It also uses an artificial blood substitute, which further mimics the breast tumour environment found in patients.

The new project is in collaboration with the University of Nottingham and aims to produce a breast cancer model which has many similarities to how breast cancer cells grow in the human body.

Professor Speirs said: “I am delighted to have received this funding. We want as many scientists as possible to know about this model and be able to use this.”

A series of training events will be held at the end of the project to give scientists practical hands-on training so that the methods developed can be adopted more widely.