A Change of Protocol

Hua is doing a postdoctoral fellowship in a laboratory that studies cancer treatment. In the experiment she is overseeing, a cancer-prone strain of mice is allowed to develop visible tumors and then receives experimental drugs to observe the effects on the tumors.

Hua notices that the tumors are interfering with the ability of some of the mice to eat and drink. She also notices that some of the mice are weaker and more emaciated than the others, which she suspects is a consequence of their feeding difficulties. The protocol for the experiment states that the mice will be treated only if they exhibit obvious signs of pain or discomfort.

When she mentions her concerns to another postdoctoral fellow, he suggests not raising the issue with the rest of the lab. The mice will be euthanized as soon as the experiment is over, and their nutritional status probably has little or no effect on the drug treatment. Furthermore, if it proved necessary to change the experimental protocol, the previous work would be invalidated and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee would need to be notified.

  1. What can Hua do to get more information about the issue?

  2. If she decides to raise the issue with others, what is the best way to do so?

  3. Should the original protocol have been approved?

mals, which applies to all animal research supported by the National Institutes of Health, requires institutions “to establish and maintain proper measures to ensure the appropriate care and use of all animals involved in research, research training, and biological testing.” The policy requires adherence with both the Animal Welfare Act and the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, a document prepared and regularly updated by committees under the National Research Council. Guidance for researchers who use animals recommends that researchers carefully consider the “three R’s” of animal testing alternatives: reduction in the numbers of animals used, refinement of techniques and procedures to reduce pain and distress, and replacement of conscious living higher animals with insentient material. Anyone who plans to use animals in research or teaching must be familiar with

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