Washington University in St. Louis’ Magazine Highlights Important Translational Research with Dogs

“Outlook,” the magazine published by Washington University in St. Louis, took an interesting look at the connection between animals, specifically dogs, and cancer research for both human and animal benefit in its April edition.

Physicians, collaborating with veterinarians, are designing clinical trials to seek out mutually beneficial therapies and treat diseases.   “Shared Medicine” is an interesting examination of the One Health, or One Medicine, movement and clearly shows the importance of animal research when it comes to conquering cancer not just for mankind but for dogs and other species, as well.

Through these endeavors, researchers are hoping to accelerate cancer drug and treatment development for humans and their four-legged friends.  “People love their pets and want to treat them when they get cancer,” Dr. David Curel, professor of radiation oncology and of cancer biology at Washington University said. “And dogs get cancers that are very similar to human cancers.”

To read “Shared Medicine,” please click here.

New York Judge Amends Order in Chimpanzee ‘Personhood’ Case

Questions about the legal rights of chimpanzees, including their possible “personhood,” have received considerable media attention, beginning in the late 1990’s as the field of animal rights law began to grow more active. So when a New York judge issued an order April 20 in a case filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) on behalf of two research chimpanzees, a Google News search produced nearly 150 results about it. Media outlets often parrot animal rights organizations’ interpretations of the facts, and this was all too true in this instance. A NhRP press release mistakenly claimed for the “first time in world history” a judge “recognizes two chimpanzees as legal persons and grants them writ of habeas corpus.” Many media outlets repeated these statements and/or went even further with their headlines.

It appears the New York Post was the first news organization to actually contact the court for clarification and reported that Judge Barbara Jaffe had “her principal court attorney send out an email blasting the activists’ ‘inaccurate press release’ and insisting that her order merely scheduled a May 6 hearing in the case.” She also quickly amended her written order by crossing out reference to a Writ of Habeas Corpus from the pre-printed title. The New York Daily News updated their account saying the action was a “routine determination to consider the matter [and] stopped short of implying that chimps are persons — as the group exuberantly proclaimed in a press release that got international attention.” The New York Times (subscription required) also carried a more complete, updated story. Nature published a reliable question and answer piece about the confusing legal implications. However, while some other media outlets have done second or revised reports, there are still erroneous news articles available online and new ones are appearing.

NABR’s Special Update of April 21 was correctly cautious about the New York court’s order in this case and its implications thanks to the advice of our own legal counsel and that of Pepperdine School of Law Professor Richard Cupp, who are following developments closely. In that regard, the Office of the New York Solicitor General, representing Stony Brook University in the matter, requested a postponement for submitting their response. The hearing of same is now set to take place on May 27 in Manhattan.

Rubella Has Been Eradicated from North and South America

According to an April 29 BBC News report, the rubella virus has been eradicated in the Americas.  North and South America are the first regions of the world to eliminate the virus after no home-grown cases have developed in five years.

This historic achievement can directly be attributed to the value of animal research.  The vaccine used across the world today was first tested in mice and rabbits for safety as well as monkey and rabbit tissues for efficacy.

Up to 20,000 children in North and South America were born with the virus, also known as German measles, until mass vaccinations began.

To read more, please click here.

Wall Street Journal Features Op-Ed by FBR/NABR President

On Friday, April 24, the Wall Street Journal printed a very informative and hard-hitting op-ed by Frankie Trull, President of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) and NABR.

The article entitled, “Animal Testing and Its Gifts to Humans,” discusses the indispensable role animal research plays in the discovery of new treatments and how the availability of animal models is being jeopardized by the efforts of animal rights organizations.  Trull’s piece focuses on a new experimental treatment for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), an aggressive tumor that kills about 12,000 people in the U.S. each year.  This experimental treatment, that wouldn’t have been possible without animal research, is saving the lives of patients who just a short time ago had little hope of survival.

With a total circulation of 2.3 million readers, this opinion editorial has reached a wide audience about the importance of  animal research, including  influencers nationwide.  To view the article, please click here.  See below for the plain text.

 


The Wall Street Journal
Opinion Section – April 23, 2015
Animal Testing and Its Gifts to Humans
By Frankie L. Trull

 

Patients with aggressive brain tumors finally have reason for hope. Thanks to the work of scientists and physicians at Duke University, an experimental new treatment for glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM—an aggressive tumor that kills about 12,000 people in the U.S. each year—is saving the lives of patients who, just months ago, had little hope of survival.

This extraordinary development wouldn’t have been possible without animal research. Yet many in the animal-rights community condemn the use of any and all animals in medical research and continue to push for testing bans. Such efforts ignore the fact that when it comes to medical research, animal models are indispensable. Further proof of this came on Wednesday with news in the journal Nature that a drug to fight Ebola had showed remarkable success when tested in rhesus monkeys.

The brain-tumor treatment developed at Duke is a re-engineered polio virus. The new virus designed by researchers helps the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. As in countless other revolutionary therapies, animal research played an invaluable role in creating this treatment.

Before human trials began, the re-engineered virus was injected into the brains of macaque monkeys, whose systems operate similarly to those of humans. Since the raw polio virus often results in paralysis, such testing of the modified virus made sense—and helped demonstrate that the body’s immune system would cripple brain tumors if injected with the re-engineered virus.

This wasn’t the only instance where animal models proved crucial for the Duke team. While developing their therapy, these researchers relied on years of previous primate research.

One such study was a 1991 paper in which Harvard researchers used a genetically engineered virus to treat a mouse with GBM. In 1996 researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook used mice to prove that infecting a cell with a polio virus required a specific receptor on the cell’s surface. Then, in 2000, a research team from Duke and Stony Brook showed how a genetically modified polio virus eliminated human tumors bearing that special receptor in mice. This discovery laid the groundwork for the clinical trials that resulted in this breakthrough therapy.

Dependence on animal research is hardly unique to Duke researchers. A number of recent medical advances have their roots in animal models. Consider a Phase III clinical trial from 2013, which proved that a next-generation herpes virus could successfully treat melanoma patients. This research was the direct result of a 1995 study by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University, demonstrating how a modified herpes virus can shrink tumors in mice and nonhuman primates.

More recently, animal research has helped pave the way toward restoring vision. Last September, a Japanese woman became the first person to undergo an experimental stem-cell treatment for blindness. The procedure was deemed safe for humans after several studies involving monkeys and mice.

The greatest medical contributions from animal research may still lie in the future. In a study published last year in the journal Stem Cell Reports, scientists in France and Germany were able to regenerate damaged brain areas in mice for the first time. The discovery could lead to treatments for human brain damage caused by everything from strokes to bullet wounds.

Despite these successes, critics continue to attack animal-research methods as needlessly cruel. Activists have succeeded in pressuring all but one major airline to stop carrying animal models to research labs. That’s a problem for scientists in the U.S. Most monkeys come from Asia and Mauritius, where they’re humanely raised on farms.

Consequently, researchers have had to turn to charter carriers. As a result, costs per animal have tripled. Those extra costs sap medical progress.

Another common argument by critics is that animal models rarely lead to discoveries that are relevant to humans. It’s undeniable that human physiology differs from that of mice or monkeys. But humans and animals still have much in common. Primates share fundamental similarities—from their use of hormones to their reactions to infection—that, for centuries, have helped deepen our understanding of the human body.

With the Duke trials, the project director initially called the idea of using polio as a therapy “nuts” because of the risk of paralysis. Animal models are what enabled his team to move forward with their work.

Activists calling for the elimination of animal studies grossly underestimate the human value of animal studies. Those who doubt this value need only look at the faces of patients in the Duke trial whose lives have been saved by these essential research techniques.

 

Ms. Trull is president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research.

Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal © 2015 Dow Jones & Company.  All rights reserved.

Director of NIH’s Office of AIDS Research Stepping Down in July

Dr. Jack Whitescarver has announced that he will step down effective July 1, 2015.  Dr. Whitescarver has led the Office of AIDS Research (OAR) at the National Institutes of Health since 2000.

“Jack has dedicated his life’s work to supporting research to prevent and treat, and ultimately find a cure for HIV/AIDS.  He has been instrumental in identifying the most important scientific priorities across NIH institutes and centers toward this effort,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “While we have made significant strides in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, many research challenges remain. But Jack’s dedicated efforts have moved us substantially closer to the ultimate goal of ending the AIDS pandemic.”

Dr. Whitescarver also serves as NIH Associate Director for AIDS Research. The NIH will appoint an acting director for the office while it seeks to recruit a new director.

To read NIH’s release, please click here.  To learn more about the NIH Office of AIDS Research, please visit http://www.oar.nih.gov.

FBR Interviews the Beagle Rescue League’s Labs to Leash Division

As you've probably already seen and heard, there is a national organization with ties to the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and animal rights extremist terror that has disguised itself as a group seeking adoptive homes for dogs and cats used in research. Make no mistake: this is not their ultimate objective. They have used these animals as props in the media to vilify lifesaving animal and veterinary research and as fundraising tools to fund their expensive lobbying campaigns as they pursue anti-research legislation across the country.

There is, however, thankfully one group who makes it their mission to find homes for former research beagles after they have helped in the endeavor to improve human and animal lives. The Beagle Rescue League's Labs to Leash Division works tirelessly, day-in and day-out, without a political agenda to place the right dogs in the right homes. Last week, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) interviewed Carolyn Sterner, President of the Beagle Rescue League, and discussed the Labs to Leash Division's valuable work to assist research institutions' adoption efforts.

To learn more about the Beagle Rescue League, their efforts, and how you can help, please click here.

Chimpanzee “Personhood” Case to Have Habeas Corpus Hearing in New York

A New York judge issued an order yesterday requiring the President of the State University of New York at Stony Brook  and the university itself to show cause why an order should not be entered granting a writ of habeas corpus to two chimpanzees.  The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed the Petition for the order on March 19, asking that the two research chimpanzees be immediately released from Stony Brook and transferred to Save the Chimps, a private Florida facility.  The same request had already been dismissed by a Suffolk County, NY court, and NhRP’s appeal of the decision was subsequently denied.  Rather than appealing the case further, NhRP decided to re-file their petition in Manhattan. As a result, NY State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffee issued the subject order and has scheduled a hearing in New York City on May 6, or as soon thereafter as counsel can be heard.  Stony Brook, as a state institution, will be represented by the Office of the New York Attorney General.

A NhRP press release carries the headline claim, “First Time in World History Judge Recognizes Two Chimpanzees as Legal Persons, Grants them Writ of Habeas Corpus.”  However, that interpretation is debatable.  According to Science, Richard Cupp, a law professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and a noted expert on the issue of personhood for animals, cautions against reading too much into the ruling. “The judge may merely want more information to make a decision on the legal personhood claim, and may have ordered a hearing simply as a vehicle for hearing out both parties in more depth,” he said in an e-mail to Science. “It would be quite surprising if the judge intended to make a momentous substantive finding that chimpanzees are legal persons if the judge has not yet heard the other side’s arguments.”

This is the latest development in the quest of NhRP President Steven Wise to establish chimpanzees as legal persons.  Three suits were originally filed in New York in December 2013.  Thus far, none has met with success, although a final appeal in the other cases is still pending.

Just a Few Spots Remain for NABR’s Next Webinar, “Cyber Threats and Cyber Security: Are You Prepared?”

Please join NABR and three of the Nation’s top cyber threat experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Tuesday, April 28 for our webinar, Cyber Threats and Cyber Security: Are You Prepared?  Space is going quickly so register TODAY!

Your research institution has invested heavily in physical site security, but how safe are your computers and networks? In today’s digitally connected world, cyber threats and “hactivism” have become serious concerns deserving serious attention. Now is the time to educate yourself on the threats, as well as the means to prevent them.

This webinar will provide you with:

  • A general overview regarding the types of cyber threats facing biomedical research
  • An eye-opening discussion on the “insider" threat, and
  • Types of best cyber security practices

The webinar WILL NOT BE RECORDED and will not be available to members after the viewing, so please don’t miss your chance to learn about this timely topic; one that should be of concern to anyone using a computer!

The FBI’s participation in this webinar does not constitute endorsement of NABR, or any of its members, or their products or services.

Register

 

 

Webinar participants will be provided with a Certificate of Attendance upon request.

*This webinar is a complimentary service for NABR member institutions. An unlimited number of interested participants from each member institution may register free of charge. Interested participants from non-member institutions must be pre-approved and will be charged a per-person access fee of $279. All major credit cards are accepted. You will be contacted for payment upon registration. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Dr. Lowy Named Acting Director of NIH’s National Cancer Institute

Dr. Douglas Lowy has been officially named the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Acting Director. Dr. Lowy has served as NCI’s deputy director since July 2010, helping lead NCI’s key scientific initiatives since that time.

A cancer researcher for more than 40 years, he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama in 2014 for his research leading to the development of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. His laboratory, in close collaboration with John T. Schiller, PhD, was involved in the initial development, characterization, and clinical testing of the preventive virus-like particle-based HPV vaccines that are now used in the three U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved HPV vaccines.

As you'll recall, Dr. Harold Varmus announced on March 4 that he would be stepping down after 5 years as NCI's Director.

“NIH Research: Think Globally,” Say Drs. Collins and Fauci

An editorial written by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, MD, about the need to invest in biomedical research both domestically and internationally, was published in the April 10 issue of Science. The NIH leaders say the nation “has a vital interest in the health of people around the globe, rooted in an enduring tradition of humanitarian concern as well as in enlightened self-interest. Engagement in global health protects the nation’s citizens, enhances the economy, and advances U.S. interests abroad.” An example is the recent Ebola outbreak that originated in West Africa, but made its way to the United States.

Now, in the face of serious fiscal constraints, the idea has reemerged from some congressional leaders and disease constituency groups to more closely align NIH funding for disease research with disease burden in the United States. Although the nation must maintain robust research support for diseases that cause illness and death among large numbers of Americans, Collins and Fauci argue it would be unwise to deemphasize diseases that exact their largest toll elsewhere in the world. In closing, they say it is “imperative that the nation sustain momentum and work with its global partners to deliver the fruits of global research to the people who need them most, both at home and abroad. Without such a commitment, we may miss opportunities to curtail or even eliminate important diseases such as AIDS and also risk the resurgence of major global health threats such as drug-resistant bacteria, tuberculosis, and malaria, for which new interventions are badly needed.”