Use of Animals in Our Research

Why is animal research necessary?

At the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute, we are committed to increasing our knowledge of cancer and improving outcomes for cancer patients. To do this, we sometimes need to use animals in our research. While we always look for alternatives where we can (such as using patient samples or computer models), cancer is a very complex disease and animal research still remains one of the best ways of understanding how cancer cells behave in the human body. We only use animals when there is no alternative and ultimately, the knowledge we gain from this vital animal research helps us to find better ways to detect and treat cancer. For more information about the benefits of this research for cancer patients, please visit CRUK's website where you will also find its policy on animal research, which we strictly adhere to.

What types of animal research do we do?

At the Scotland Institute we use only mice in our research. Some of the key discoveries our scientists have made about common cancers such as lung and bowel cancer, and hard-to-treat ones such as pancreatic cancer have only been possible where mouse models have been used. To find out more, please see our Annual Reports. The mice are either bred in our purpose-built facilities or are purchased from authorised suppliers licensed to supply animals for research. Most of the mice we use have the same genetic alterations that are found in the human disease which allows us to study how and why these particular changes cause cancer, and how we might target these changes with drugs in an effort to treat patients.

How much animal research do we do?

We only use animals when there is no alternative. When we do use them we comply with the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) and keep up to date with information available from animal welfare bodies on best practice. Our scientists actively look for ways to refine their experiments, to reduce the number of animals they use while still gaining meaningful results, and seek novel ways to replace animals with alternatives (such as using patient samples or computer models).

How do we look after the animals we use in our research?

The welfare of our mice is of utmost concern. Mice are housed in state-of-the-art facilities and every animal is ensured a high standard of care including environmental enrichment (e.g. each cage has a tunnel, nesting material and chew sticks). The necessity, ethics and conduct of all research is critically reviewed by the Animal Welfare & Ethics Review Body (AWERB) at the University of Glasgow. In addition our scientists receive continual guidance from Named Animal Care and Welfare Officers and a Named Veterinary Surgeon, as well as from Home Office Inspectors.

All our animal studies are conducted in strict compliance with EU Directive 2010/63 and the UK Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Scientists and technologists involved with animal studies are highly skilled; undergo rigorous competency training; and hold Personal Licences that govern their ability to carry out animal research. All of our studies are authorised through Project Licences, which are issued by the Home Office and held by senior scientists. These are scrupulously assessed and must be renewed at least every 5 years. We are regularly visited by inspectors from the Home Office's Animals in Science Regulation Unit to ensure the laws are being adhered to and that the highest possible standards of animal welfare are being maintained.

Cancer Research UK is one of seventy organisations from academia, industry, funding bodies and charities who have signed up to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK, and as such we welcome the opportunity to discuss and explain our research. You can contact us at

Links with more information

Understanding animal research:
Home Office: