Danh Truong, a graduate student at Arizona State University, is a second-year recipient of the NAVS/International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) Graduate Fellowship for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Science. Before Danh completes his Ph.D. this fall, we touched base with him to get an update on his cancer research project and to learn more about his experience as an IFER fellow.
Danh’s research focuses on developing a human-relevant, cell-based cancer model that better accounts for how the environment surrounding the tumor influences cancer growth, invasion and response to treatment—something missing from most commonly-used models.
Many cell-based cancer models are too simplistic and focus only on the cancer cells themselves, ignoring the environment around the tumor. The tumor microenvironment is also different in mice than it is in human patients. Because the environment surrounding tumors plays a significant role in how cancer cells grow and spread, these models may be of limited value.
“My project attempts to create a simple three-dimensional platform that can incorporate complexities, like blood vessels, connective tissue and other cell types, to better grasp their influence on cancer behavior and drug efficacy,” Danh noted. “These efforts will significantly reduce the failures of conventional in vitro work, as well as usage of animals, as we can perform more in-depth testing to benchmark new cancer therapies in our model.” Danh recently published a scientific article on the development and validation of the 3-D model he uses in his breast cancer studies.
Danh is concerned that “many still rely on animal work and look down on animal-free alternatives” in the cancer research community, but believes that facilitating more conversations about the advantages of alternatives may help other researchers see them in a better light.
“With enough exposure, I believe scientists will begin to see that animal-free alternatives will provide better control over experimental parameters compared to animal work, as well as reducing time and expenses spent,” he said.
NAVS values the contributions that Danh has made to the cancer field and wishes him continued success as he wraps up his Ph.D. project and seeks a position working on 3-D models as a scientist in industry.
Help fund smarter science that advances discovery, innovation and human-relevant solutions without the use of harmful, flawed and costly animal experiments by making a donation to NAVS today. Your continued support may lead to the next big discovery that brings us closer to an end to animal research.
Pictured: IFER fellowship recipient Danh Truong in his lab at Arizona State University