Recent research has revealed that clinical trials involving the rodents do not automatically produce effective treatments for humans
On 19 November 2014 the journal Nature published the conclusions of a study carried out by the Encode international consortium, comparing the systems controlling gene activity in mice and in humans. The four articles on this topic found new similarities but also differences. However, this was only the visible tip of a massive undertaking that gave rise to a dozen publications in all, in five different journals.
Laboratory mice are much in the news, in the scientific world at least. A month earlier the journal Science explained how genetic engineering and new transplant techniques have kindled hope of understanding and treating cancer. Researchers set forth their dream of genetically modifying a mouse or implanting a human tumour in order to reproduce a patient’s condition and find the right molecules for their treatment.
However at the end of October the New England Journal of Medicine published an account of three clinical trials of prospective tuberculosis treatments that was much less flattering for the rodents. Researchers had tested three new drug regimens that had worked well for mice; on humans they proved a complete failure. “These trials cost at least $200m,” says Dr Clifton Barry. “In a way, it’s to be expected. Research is expensive. But this setback was foreseeable, like all the others we’ve seen in the past 40 years involving tuberculosis and mice. Yet no one seems particularly bothered.”