Micheal Berens

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Micheal Berens, PhD, Director, Cancer and Cell Biology Division; Head, Brain Tumor Research Lab for TGen (Translational Genomics Research Institute).

Brief bio

Dr. Berens obtained his undergraduate degree in zoology from Arizona State University. His doctoral work was completed at University of Arizona in the field of cancer biology. He is currently the Senior Investigator at the Brain Tumor Research Unit at TGen. [1]

Brain cancer research on beagles

At the University of Arizona, Dr. Berens bred dogs for animal testing. Specifically, for creating high grade, malignant brain tumors and using puppies and dogs in toxicity tests for cancer treatments. He also marketed dogs and puppies to other laboratories for cancer research and toxicity tests. His subjects were female beagles and their unborn puppies. Earlier in the project, he used greyhounds. Dr. Berens injected fetal puppies under the skin with cancer cells at the 37 day gestation (the point when the puppies immune system would not reject the cells) in surgeries which took from four to fourteen hours. Puppies who developed tumors were subjected to a second surgery at four to six months to remove tumors under the skin. They were then placed in a stereotaxic instrument (that fits on the head and locates structures in the brain by coordinates) as a hole was bored into their skull and a tumor implanted under the brain's membrane. These tumors were:

  • allowed to grow untreated. (Two published papers by Dr. Beren's featured two two dogs with half their brain destroyed.)
  • allowed to grow and irradiated.
  • allowed to grow and treated with experimental chemotherapy.
  • allowed to grow then surgically removed, irradiated and treated with experimental chemotherapy.

Between 1990 and 2000, Dr. Micheal Berens worked with approximately 471 female dogs and their unborn puppies, injecting cancer cells into beagle fetuses and replanted tumors into puppy's brains. At least 75% of the puppies were aborted or stillborn. Surviving puppies suffered from hydrocephalus, missing limbs and other birth defects. Only 2 to 5% of puppies born alive developed tumors. These puppies lived for approximately one year of illness, painful surgeries and invasive treatments as living petri dishes. At between 9 and 12 months they were euthanized for necropsies. The few remaining healthy puppies faced permanent confinement in a laboratory or euthanasia. After 10 years and the deaths of 471 dogs, two successful fetal surgeries and tumor implants were documented and published (a 95% failure rate). [2], Under Dr. Berens, blind and collapsing dogs suffer unremitting cycles of radiation and chemotherapy. Berens has claimed:

"When it can't take it anymore, one puppy is killed to move on to the next. [3]

University of Arizona withdraws support

After ten years of study, only three puppies developed cancer. In 1999, the Arizona State University animal research oversight committee told Berens to remove his dogs from their kennels. [4] Cited concerns included overall failure; large numbers of dogs killed after failing to develop tumors and suffering and prolonged confinement of the few dogs that did. One IACUC member bluntly inquired when Berens would acknowledge the project's failure. Dr. Beren's response was to transfer the remaining puppies to a Veterans Administration (VA) facility in Tucson, Arizona

Candle light vigil in front of VA

In December of 2000, Dr. Berens released 19 of 22 beagle puppies after mounting publicity and criticism which included a candlelight vigil in front of the VA . (The puppies had been schedule for ethanization.) The 22 puppies were the only survivors of 135 puppies who had not developed tumors and euthanized. Some were adopted by VA hospital employees. [5]

Funding

Citizens' group pushes for funding moratorium

Dr. Berens research was subsequently approved by the Barrow Neurological Institute of St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, where the NIH continued to fund his research. A local group called Concerned Citizens for Animal Welfare (CCAW), was also formed to help permanently stop the Berens' beagle research and to investigate animal testing at Barrow. Arizona Congressman John Shadegg lobbied for a moratorium on funding. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, Arizona contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the NIH, after mounting complaints and a demonstration in front of Senator McCain's Phoenix offices.

Since 1997, Dr. Berens was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. [6] The funding ceased in April of 2001. [7] See also National Institutes of Health, sections 4 & 5.

Lawsuit

In August of 2001, Dr. Patricia Haight and In Defense of Animals (IDA) an animal rights and laboratory watchdog group, sued Dr. Berens in a California Federal Court accusing him and of repeatedly submitting inaccurate information to the NIH to secure grants. According to Dr. Haight, a psychologist; Beren's progress reports from the University of Arizona revealed that only 3 malignant tumors were produced from 1990 to 1999. Yet, according to his NIH report, there were "seven litters harbored dogs who eventually developed glial tumors", including "four of five litter mates." [8]

Cancer & animal testing

More is spent on cancer than any other medical problem. There are more people living off of cancer than cancer sufferers. Millions of laboratory animals, including rats, mice, monkeys, guinea pigs, cats and dogs have been injected with cancerous material or implanted with malignancies. [9] Why hasn't progress been commensurate with the effort and money invested? One explanation is the unwarranted preoccupation with animal testing. Crucial genetic, molecular, immunologic and cellular differences have disqualify animal models as an effective means to a cure. According to leading cancer researcher, Robert Weinberg:

"The preclinical (animal) models of human cancer, in large part, stink… Hundreds of millions of dollars are being wasted every year by drug companies using these models." [10] See also War on Cancer, section 6.

Articles & sources

Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. Research Faculty: Michael Berens, TGen, accessed September 2009
  2. Micheal Berens Conducts Failed Brain Tumor Research on Female Dogs and their Puppies, In Defense of Animals, accessed February 2009
  3. Brenda Schloss You Paid for it, Kinship Circle, accessed February 2009
  4. James Hibberd Screwing the Pooch, Phoenix New Times, January 2001
  5. Micheal Berens Conducts Failed Brain Tumor Research on Female Dogs and their Puppies, In Defense of Animals, accessed February 2009
  6. Micheal Berens Conducts Failed Brain Tumor Research on Female Dogs and their Puppies, In Defense of Animals, accessed February 2009
  7. James Hibberd Who Let the Dogs Out? The beagles are going home, Phoenix New Times, January 2001
  8. James Hibberd Legal Beagles, Phoenix New Times, August 2001
  9. Cancer, Information for Transformation, accessed February 2009
  10. A Critical Look at Animal Experimentation: A. Selected Diseases: 1. Cancer, Medical Research Modernization Committee, 2006

External articles