Non-animal models in immuno-oncology

Posted on: 25/05/2022

Recently, the EU Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing (EURL ECVAM) from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) has published a new knowledge base containing 542 promising non-animal models used in immuno-oncology in basic and applied research. This knowledge base will help to make new, more human relevant and innovative technologies more accessible.

‘Immuno-oncology is the study of the immunological mechanisms behind cancer initiation and development with the aim of developing treatments (immunotherapy) that use the body’s immune system to fight cancer.’

Immuno-oncology is one of the most promising research areas to revolutionize the treatment of several cancers. The development of new human based models is booming in this area. Nonetheless, there are major challenges in understanding the human physiology and disease and more in particular, in predicting how patients respond to newly developed therapies.

In this study review around 130,000 peer-reviewed publications were screened for innovative and promising advanced non-animal models in immune-oncology. In the period between January 2014 and March 2019, certain types of cancers were most investigated: colorectal, breast, melanoma, pancreatic, ovarian and non-small-cell-lung cancers. The majority of models used in these publications were focused on understanding the biological mechanisms responsible for cancer initiation and progression, and the development of better and safer immunotherapies.

The report indicated that even though ‘the use of in vitro human-based models in immuno-oncology research is extensive, there is still a clear need for even more advanced models that capture complex human physiology. High-throughput methods based on non-animal models and ‘omics, for example, 5can deliver big datasets rich with biological information. Such approaches have significant potential both to accelerate translation of relevant research results to the clinic and to support the move towards precision medicine tailored to patients’

According to the JRC, the newly published knowledge base could be used by a variety of stakeholders:

  • researchers to identify models and methods that can be used to tackle their own research questions;
  • educators to provide the latest information on the state-of-the-art techniques to their students;
  • funding bodies to consider trends, identify impactful research avenues and target promising areas for investment;
  • project evaluation committees to ensure that project proposers have properly considered the use of non-animal models and methods in their research proposals;
  • National Contact Points and National Committees to ensure proper knowledge sharing on non-animal methods within Member State networks and organisations involved in biomedical research using animals.

This is the fourth study undertaken by EURL ECVAM to disseminate information on the use of NAMs in biomedical research. The first three topics were neurodegenerative diseases, respiratory diseases and breast cancer. Upcoming topics are: autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease and immunogenicity of advanced medicinal products.

The full report, executive summary and knowledge base can all be downloaded via the link of the Data Catalogue of the JRC here.



Cover page of review