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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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An Examination of Chimpanzee Use in Human Cancer Research


Jarrod Bailey

Advocates of chimpanzee research claim the genetic similarity of humans and chimpanzees make them an indispensable research tool to combat human diseases. Given that cancer is a leading cause of human death worldwide, one might expect that if chimpanzees were needed for, or were productive in, cancer research, then they would have been widely used. This comprehensive literature analysis reveals that chimpanzees have scarcely been used in any form of cancer research, and that chimpanzee tumours are extremely rare and biologically different from human cancers. Often, chimpanzee citations described peripheral use of chimpanzee cells and genetic material in predominantly human genomic studies. Papers describing potential new cancer therapies noted significant concerns regarding the chimpanzee model. Other studies described interventions that have not been pursued clinically. Finally, available evidence indicates that chimpanzees are not essential in the development of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. It would therefore be unscientific to claim that chimpanzees are vital to cancer research. On the contrary, it is reasonable to conclude that cancer research would not suffer, if the use of chimpanzees for this purpose were prohibited in the US. Genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees, make them an unsuitable model for cancer, as well as other human diseases.

Full text pdf 37(4), 399–416