Involving animals in research

Research involving animals is essential for beating cancer

A great deal of our research is carried out without involving animals. In certain areas, however, animal research remains essential if we are to understand, prevent and cure cancer.

Cancer Research UK only supports research involving animals when there is no alternative.

Thanks to the work of Cancer Research UK and other organisations, cancer survival has doubled over the past 40 years. This achievement would not have been possible without animal research, which has furthered our understanding of the disease, and helped us to discover, develop and test life-saving treatments.

Cancer patients and their families are at the heart of everything we do. Cancer will affect 1 in 2 people during their lives and our ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, more than 3 in 4 people diagnosed will survive. We believe that all our research is vital if we are to achieve this goal and save more lives.

Why do we need animal research?

Research involving animals is essential for us to save lives. Most cancer treatments used today wouldn’t exist without this type of work.

Most of our research doesn't involve animals, but sometimes scientists need to study the biology of cancer in a whole body, rather than individual cells or tissues. Researchers study cancer in animals because they are good models for how cancer behaves in people, helping us understand the disease so we can find better ways to detect and treat it. This includes discovering the faulty genes that cause cancer, investigating how the disease grows and spreads, and exploring how our bodies can help fight tumours.

We also need animal research to improve treatments. It’s an important way to develop and test new drugs, radiotherapy and surgical techniques.

It’s the law in the UK that all new drugs are assessed for safety before they can be tested in people and this usually requires testing in animals. This minimises the risk to cancer patients during the development of new treatments.

Find out more

For further information about involving animals in our research: