Both from the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods and worldwide, there is a general call for the reduction, refinement or replacement of the use of laboratory animals. However, while in vivo animal models of chemotherapy and radiotherapy-induced oral mucositis have been successfully established, alternative methods such as in vitro tools for mucositis are still missing.
Oral mucositis is a severe side effect of both chemo- and radiotherapy and is the cause of inflammation of the mucosa of the mouth. Symptoms of mucositis vary from pain and discomfort to an inability to tolerate food or fluids. Apart from being treatment limiting, also the quality-of-life of patients and the economic costs of supportive therapies are of significant concern. Given that hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide are affected by mucositis annually, a significant need for effective therapy exists. However, there is no actual treatment. Therefore, new tools are urgently required to allow a rapid and high-throughput screening of new-generation anti-mucositis drugs and strategies.
The objectives of this project can be summarized as follows: 1. Generation and critical evaluation of an innovative high-throughput in vitro model of oral mucositis; 2. In vivo validation of the in vitro model using established animal models of chemo/radiotherapy-induced mucositis; 3. Exploration of the in vitro and in vivo tools to identify new biomarkers and risk factors of mucositis in order to anticipate animal and human chemo/radiotoxicity and to enhance anti-mucositis drug screening.
The set up of the platform requires an international and a multidisciplinary approach, involving prominent experts in the mucositis, cancer biology and medical microbiology field and a strong interaction with the clinical oncology society. In return, the platform generates an opportunity to achieve a substantial reduction of animal experiments in mucositis risk assessments.
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