Since President Richard M. Nixon declared “war on cancer” in 1971, many strides have been made, but victory has remained illusive, due in large part to an over-dependence on animal models of cancer. Billions of dollars have been spent and millions upon millions of mice and rats (and numerous other species) have been used, largely because they are relatively inexpensive and easy to breed.
Cancer is a very individual disease in that tumors in different people have different genetic changes that caused the disease. Modeling human cancers in animals that have different genetic, immunologic, and cellular backgrounds than people is not the most effective way to study this difficult disease. Even Robert Weinberg, a pioneer of cancer research, said, “The preclinical [animal] models of human cancer, in large part, stink … Hundreds of millions of dollars are being wasted every year by drug companies using these models.”
Advances in the fields of genomics and personalized medicine are showing great promise in battling the "war on cancer."