Thanks to Animal Research, Experimental Cancer Treatment Cures Dog

While animal rights groups have squarely targeted the use of canines in research, a May 16 article in the Boston Globe serves as a reminder of similarities between dogs and humans. Man’s best friend shares the same environment as their human counterparts and therefore suffers many of the same ailments and health challenges. That connection could be the key to unlocking treatments and cures for both species.

Consider the story of Drambuie, a golden retriever who was diagnosed with a sarcoma, a type of cancerous tumor which attacks soft tissues. Drambuie’s prognosis was not good, so his owner enrolled him in a clinical trial for a new sarcoma treatment at Tuft’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Cheryl London, a veterinary oncologist, has been testing a new form of immunotherapy, injecting a piece of DNA that allows the dog’s own immune system to destroy the sarcoma.

About one month after the injection, a surgery was scheduled to remove the shrunken tumor from Drambuie, yet none could be found. The immunotherapy had eliminated the tumor.

These types of clinical trials in canines are helping researchers develop the next generation of cancer treatments for humans, proving yet again animal research advances medicine for our furry companions, as well as us.

NIH Working Group Says Chimpanzees Should Not Go to Sanctuary if Their Health Could Be Endangered

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Working Group on Assessing the Safety of Relocating At-Risk Chimpanzees released their report last Friday in which they conclude, “Chimpanzees should be relocated to the federal sanctuary system unless relocation would place the chimpanzee's life, safety, and welfare at extreme risk.” The federal sanctuary system referenced in this report is Chimp Haven in Keithville, LA. NABR has long argued that chimpanzees should not be relocated if their health, safety, or welfare were put at risk by the move. The report goes on to state if there is a disagreement between a research facility and sanctuary, an “independent expert veterinary opinion should be sought to inform the relocation decision.” However, the report included no details about who the independent third party should be nor how impartiality would be determined.

The working group report comes in the wake of revelations that moving elderly or ailing chimpanzees from research facilities to sanctuaries had been adversely affecting their health, and in several cases the move was fatal. Researchers have noted many chimpanzees suffered or died needlessly as a result of transfers to Chimp Haven, as detailed by Speaking of Research. In fact Wired profiled 13 chimpanzees who were moved to the facility in 2014-2015; within 15 months, nine of the chimps had died.

As of March 2018, 232 of the 504 chimpanzees owned by NIH have been moved to the federal sanctuary. Of the remaining chimpanzees that have not been moved, 177 have health issues that would be negatively impacted by relocation. NIH plans to open a 60-day public comment period before NIH Director Francis Collins decides on further chimpanzee relocation. Director Collins ordered an end to NIH funding of chimpanzee research in November 2015.

DxE Activists Charged with Multiple Felonies

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) has been in the news lately for their self-publicized break-ins and thefts of animals in what they deem “rescues.” DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung and five other activists are facing felony charges in Sanpete County, UT for theft from a turkey farm in January of 2017. It is also being reported that five DxE activists, including Hsiung, are facing new felony charges in Beaver County, UT for the July 2017 theft of pigs from Circle Four Farms, owned by Smithfield Farms. All five activists are being charged with engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, two counts of burglary committed against an animal enterprise, and theft of livestock. It was DxE’s own video, profiled by the New York Times, that is now serving as evidence in the theft.

The group brazenly claims to have engaged in several such thefts documented here: https://www.directactioneverywhere.com/open-rescue/#past-rescues.  DxE is using these thefts to push for what they call “Julie’s Law” at the municipal level, a proposal aimed at giving animals legal standing in local courts by granting rights currently reserved for humans.

DxE supports amending the U.S. Constitution to ban all animal research and animal agriculture. Hsiung expressly wrote of the hypothetical future he envisions: “The year is 2060. Four years ago, a constitutional amendment was passed enshrining animal rights in the US Constitution. And today, we are shutting down the last slaughterhouse on Earth.” DxE provides more detail in “The Roadmap to Animal Liberation.”

Concern Grows Over New ‘Pig Virus’ Threat to Public Health

A newly identified pig virus is giving researchers cause for concern after they discovered it can transfer to lab-cultured cells of people and other animal species.

The virus, porcine deltacoronavirus, was first discovered in China in 2012 and detected in U.S. pigs in 2014. No human cases have been documented so far, though researchers are concerned about the virus’ ability to transfer to humans and cause life-threatening issues. Further research will be necessary to discover exactly how transferable the virus is and how susceptible other animals may be.

This case acutely underscores the necessity for animal research in the preservation of both human and animal life.

Farm Bill Amendment for Regulatory Relief Filed in U.S. House

Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) has filed an amendment to H.R. 2, the 2018 Farm Bill, to address the need to provide regulatory relief for the nation’s animal researchers. The proposed change, as drafted by Rep. Rouzer, replaces the yearly mandate for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections at animal research facilities with “every three years.” As a draft amendment, it must clear the House Rules Committee. The Senate, which has yet to hammer out their own version of the Farm Bill, has not indicated whether a similar provision will be included. It is important to clarify that this amendment in no way ends USDA's inspections.

NABR strongly supports this move towards regulatory relief for the biomedical research community and improved flexibility for the USDA to focus efforts on bad actors. The National Science Board (NSB) has reported that researchers spend as much as 42% of their time responding to regulatory and administrative burdens. Numerous reports, including the October 2010 report by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), and the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) have made recommendations for reducing regulatory burdens in biomedical research. Additionally, the 21st Century Cures Act signed into law, signed into law on December 13, 2016, mandates that federal agencies work to reduce regulatory burden on the animal research community.

 

VCU Researcher Reminds the Public Why Animal Research is Necessary

"We gotta get people out of the hospital. It's why we do research." That’s what Dr. Bill Dewey, Chair of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Pharmacology and Toxicology Department, said in a Richmond news article about animal research aimed at curbing the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic.

Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the opioid epidemic kills 115 people per day in the U.S., and WRIC in Richmond, VA reports there are five ongoing studies at VCU funded by the NIH. In the piece questioning VCU’s research, Dr. Dewey explained that the purpose of VCU’s research with primates is to find pain relief without addiction, a much-needed medical objective.

When asked about the opposition of animal rights groups, he responded, "I disagree with that because I think it's like the story of giving a man a fish… Teaching him how to fish is better." To read and watch Dr. Dewey’s salient comments about the value of animal research studies, please click here.

President Signs Omnibus Bill

Earlier today, President Donald Trump signed the FY18 omnibus bill to keep the federal government open until September 30. President Trump had previously announced via Twitter earlier in the morning that he was considering vetoing the bill because of the border wall and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issues.

There were several animal provisions in the bill. The omnibus will include $30,810,000 (a $2 million increase from FY17) for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including continuing inspections of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) locations conducting research with farm animals.

The omnibus also addresses the USDA database issue by noting, “On February 3, 2017, USDA restricted the public's access to the search tool for the Animal Care Inspection System, saying it needed to conduct a comprehensive review of the information on its website. USDA is now posting heavily redacted inspection reports that make it difficult in certain cases for the public to understand the subject of the inspection, assess USDA's subsequent actions, and to evaluate the effectiveness of its enforcement. USDA's actions to date do not meet the requirements in H. Rpt. 115-232 that the online searchable database should allow analysis and comparison of data and include all inspection reports, annual reports, and other documents related to enforcement of animal welfare laws. USDA is directed to comply with these requirements and is reminded that as part of its oversight responsibilities, Congress has the right to make any inquiry it wishes into litigation in which USDA is involved. USDA is directed to respond to any such inquiries fully.”

Level funding of almost $21.5 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Computational Toxicology program was also included in the bill to develop effective alternatives, as required by the 2016 reauthorization of TSCA, the Toxic Substances Control Act. Rejecting a $212 million cut proposed by the President, the bill also increases funding of the National Institute (NIH) National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences (NCATS) by over $36 million.

The omnibus didn’t stop there. Aside from encouraging the expedited transfer of NIH’s retired chimpanzees and expansion of the federal sanctuary system, it also contained a prohibition on funding for Class B licenses by the USDA, which has been included several times before. It also prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from using funding for “research using canines unless: the scientific objectives of the study can only be met by research with canines; the study has been directly approved by the Secretary; and the study is consistent with the revised Department of Veterans Affairs canine research policy document released on December 18, 2017.” Also, it requires the VA Secretary to submit to both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees a “detailed report outlining under what circumstances canine research may be needed if there are no other alternatives, how often it was used during that time period, and what protocols are in place to determine both the safety and efficacy of the research.”

To read the full 2,232 page FY18 omnibus, please click here.

NBC News Spotlights Canine Cancer Research

In case you missed it, a segment on Saturday's NBC Nightly News broadcast with Lester Holt was dedicated to exploring some promising cancer research involving dogs.

As explained by NBC News Medical Correspondent Dr. John Torres, 20 major medical centers are conducting clinical trials for drugs that could potentially cure cancer in dogs. "Humans and dogs are 95% identical genetically—and the diseases that affect humans, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and melanoma, are almost identical."

Click here to learn why so many researchers are turning to man's best friend for new cancer treatments that could benefit humans and companion animals alike. The segment perfectly exemplifies the Foundation for Biomedical Research's (FBR) outreach campaign: "Love Animals? Support Animal Research."

HSUS CEO Resigns Amid Harassment Allegations

On Friday, Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) resigned amid numerous claims of inappropriate behavior. Pacelle’s resignation comes after HSUS’s board voted to keep the CEO, prompting seven board members to issue their resignations. Kitty Block has been named interim chief executive.

HSUS, one of the largest animal rights organizations in the country, has historically been a staunch challenger to animal research and even has a section of its website devoted to the “troubling issue of animal research.”

To read POLITICO’s coverage of the claims of harassment at HSUS, please click here.

New NIH Working Group to Develop Guidelines for Chimpanzee Retirement

What to do with nearly 300 retired research chimpanzees has remained a question for quite some time. Currently in three medical research centers, the animals have been awaiting transfer to the only federal retirement sanctuary: Chimp Haven.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) plans to organize a working group for developing recommendations for veterinarians to consider when or if to transfer chimpanzees. This comes after a number of deaths of former research chimps shortly after arriving at the sanctuary. The unavoidable stress of moving the animals, many of which are elderly and sick, has raised concerns leading many to question whether moving the animals at all is a wise endeavor.

“Retirement in place” at the medical research centers, in the animals’ existing social groupings, has been suggested as a preferable alternative. The NIH’s formation of a working group could signal a reevaluation of the subject of research chimpanzee retirement.

Nature covered this story early in the week, which can be read in its entirely here.

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