Let’s not get overexcited about any mouse study used in research

Experimental treatments have low odds of making it beyond this stage of tests

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by Ed Tobias |

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Mice exaggerate and monkeys lie, some researchers jokingly say. (Or is it the other way around?)

Testing on rodents and animals is a typical early step in creating medications, and Multiple Sclerosis News Today publishes news articles about many of these studies. It’s interesting to read what researchers are studying and the experimental multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments they hope will work, especially when it comes to the holy grail of MS treatments, which is remyelination.

But reader beware. The odds of an experimental treatment making it from mouse or monkey to human are very low.

According to a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Translational Research, less than 8% of cancer treatments make it from animal studies into a clinical setting, where they’re tested on people. And according to a study published in the July 2022 issue of Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B, only 10% of the medications in those clinical trials make it through to government approval.

The researchers in this latter article cite four possible reasons for these failures: the experimental treatment lacks clinical efficacy, toxicity problems couldn’t be managed, the drug’s chemical properties have problems, or there’s too little commercial need for the medication.

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Trials take time

A lot of people understand the limitations of early medical research — but many don’t. I regularly read comments on social media sites, including the MS News Today Facebook page, from people who read an article about a mouse study and think its experimental treatment will be available quickly. Some traditional news organizations also have this problem at times when covering early studies.

“On average, it takes a drug about 12 years to get from discovery to market,” according to an article in the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Quest magazine. A clinical trial alone can take five to seven years. Then, if all goes well, government approval is sought. The article reports “only about one drug in 10,000 actually makes it.”

No wonder some researchers joke about mice and monkeys lying and exaggerating.

What do you think?

A few years ago, James Heathers’ tongue-in-cheek feed on Twitter, now known as X, was concerned about the misinterpretation of mouse studies. In a column in the online magazine Medium, Heathers explained, “Reporting pre-clinical research as something that’s directly relevant to people in the here and now is like pointing at a pile of two-by-fours and a bag of tenpenny nails and calling it a cottage.”

Is he right? Do you read mouse and animal studies? Do you think an average reader understands their limitations?

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

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