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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

23 April 2001 Issue

dollar2.gifHi there, join us this week, April 21 through April 29, as we activist protest on behalf of the animals that are suffering in laboratories.

Please join Animals In Print as we protest Michael Berens, a man that sees dollar signs where only suffering exists. The article is as follow:

Michael Berens Conducts "Failed Brain Tumor Research" on Female Dogs and Their Young Puppies


Michael Berens is a Ph. D. who is a member of the Neuro-oncology Department at Barrow Neurological Institute of St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Since 1997, Dr. Berens has been funded by a grant awarded to him from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Michael Berens has established a canine glioma laboratory and breeding project to create in dogs and puppies high grade malignant brain tumors. Dr. Berens plans to use the puppies and dogs for toxicity testing in cancer treatments. He also plans to market the dogs and puppies for toxicity testing and to provide the dogs and puppies as canine glioma models to other laboratories wishing to use them in cancer research.

Michael Berens' Subjects: Pregnant female beagles and their unborn and maturing puppies. Earlier in this project, Dr. Berens' also used greyhound dogs.

Method: Glial cells are small cells that surround the neurons in the brain. Neurons do the work of conducting information and controlling our bodies. Glia protect and nourish the neurons. Sometimes the genetic coding goes wrong in glial cells and a brain tumor develops. This tumor is called a glioma. The most malignant and deadly glioma is an astrocytoma. Astrocytomas are highly malignant brain tumors in humans and in other animals that grow rapidly destroying cells in the brain. Michael Berens harvests astrocytoma cells from dogs with spontaneously arising brain tumors to implant in developing fetal puppies. Dr. Berens also obtains glioma cells from a laboratory in the United Kingdom.

Female beagles are bred. After becoming pregnant, the females are subjected to uterine laporoscopic surgery when the fetal puppies are thirty-seven days old. These surgeries can take from four to fourteen hours. The developing puppies are injected, under the skin, with glioma cells. Thirty-seven days in gestation is a point in development when a puppy's immune system will not reject the cells. Dr. Berens predicts that the cells will cause the development of small tumors under the skin of the puppies. Puppies who develop the subcutaneous tumors are subjected to a second surgery. At four to six months of age, the tumors are excised from under the skin of the puppies. The puppies are put into a stereotaxic instrument, a hole is bored into the skull, the membrane covering the brain is punctured, and the excised tumor is implanted in the frontal or parietal lobe of the puppy's brain.

The implanted tumors develop into large, highly malignant brain tumors in the puppies. Michael Berens justifies these procedures because he says that the course of these brain tumors and treatments will be followed in order to assess tumor growth and treatment for humans. Puppies who reach the final stage of this experiment in which tumors are implanted into the brain will be assigned to one of the following conditions:

Group 1: The brain tumors simply are allowed to grow. Two papers published by Dr. Berens include pictures of the brains of two dogs in which the tumor has destroyed half of the brain. Group 2: The brain tumors are allowed to grow and the tumors are irradiated. Group 3: The brain tumor is allowed to grow and the tumor is irradiated and treated with experimental chemotherapy. Group 4: The brain tumor is allowed to grow and the tumor is surgically excised, irradiated, and treated with experimental chemotherapy.

At between nine and twelve months of age, these puppies are destroyed, their bodies drained of blood and perfused, and histologies are performed. These dogs live for about a year; a year of illness and painful and invasive experimental treatment. They spend their short painful lives as little more than a living petri dish for growing malignant brain tumors.

Objectives of research: 1) To perfect the procedure for injecting cancer cells (glioma cells) into unborn puppies at a time when their undeveloped immune systems will not reject the cells. 2) To use this procedure for developing an animal model of malignant brain tumors. 3) To study the course of these brain tumors. 4) To study different courses of experimental therapy. 5) To market the patented procedure for injecting the cancer cells into fetal puppies and "tricking" their immune systems into accepting the cancer cells. 6)To market the dogs and puppies with brain tumors for toxicity testing of cancer treatments. 7)To distribute the dogs and puppies with brain tumors to other laboratories for use as subjects in research. 8) To establish a full breeding program to maintain a supply of puppies and dogs with malignant tumors for research and toxicology testing.

What is the value of this research? Over the last ten years, extending from 1990 to 2000, Dr. Berens has worked with approximately four hundred and seventy one female dogs and their unborn and developing puppies. He has performed hundreds of fetal implants on unborn puppies at thirty-seven days in the gestation period. Initially, surgeries on the mothers took as long as fourteen hours. Now surgeries take approximately four hours. Complications for the mothers include the effects of prolonged surgery, anesthesia, and spontaneous abortions.

The fetal puppies that receive cell transplants fair very poorly. At least 75% of the puppies are aborted or stillborn. The remaining puppies that survive frequently suffer from birth defects including hydrocephalus, missing limbs, and other congenital problems induced by the fetal surgery. Only 2% to 5% of the puppies, born alive, ever develop any tumor. The few remaining healthy puppies, although tumor-free, face a life of permanent confinement in a laboratory or euthanasia. From the hundreds of puppies subjected to this procedure, only a small number ever receive a cranial implant. For those unfortunate few, there are multiple surgeries to debrade and reduce the size of the quickly growing tumor, radiation and chemotherapy until, in Dr. Berens' words, "They cannot take anymore." In a ten-year period in which an estimate 471 dogs and puppies have been used and killed, two successful fetal surgeries and tumor implants have been published and documented. The failure rate of this project is 95% and perhaps, as high as 98%.

How does the scientific community view Michael Berens' research? Until 1999, Michael Berens, housed his dogs and puppies at Arizona State University. In 1999, the Arizona State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, refused to support the research any longer by housing Michael Berens' dogs or puppies at their facility. The withdrawal of support came because of serious concerns by IACUC members regarding the overall failure of the project, the large number of dogs and puppies already involved and killed, the prolonged and unnecessary confinement of the dogs and puppies, the large number of healthy puppies that were euthanized because they failed to develop any tumor, and the suffering of the few puppies that actually developed a malignant brain tumor. One IACUC committee member bluntly asked Dr. Berens when he would acknowledge that his project had failed.

Michael Berens responded to these concerns of his colleagues by transferring the remaining puppies to a Veteran's Administration facility in Tucson, Arizona. He continues to do the fetal implants at Barrow Neurological Institute and shows no evidence of terminating the project. The project continues to be supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Other serious areas of concern for animals used in research at Barrow Neurological Institute: In 1998, a member of the National Institutes of Health Office of Extramural activities made a performance site visit to Barrow Neurological Institute. What he observed at Barrow spurred the official to contact NIH and report several areas of serious noncompliance. The most glaring area of noncompliance was in the lack of IACUC reviews. Several research projects at Barrow were not reviewed according to their animal welfare assurance filed with the Office of Laboratory Welfare at NIH. One project, involving primates, had not been reviewed for twelve years. NIH requires that every research project funded by them be reviewed every three years. The NIH official reported several other areas of concern including the fact that the staff veterinarian could not obtain continuous access to surgical areas in which animals were being subjected to surgical procedures and a continuing lack of communication between Barrow and NIH.


dollar2.gifWhen Less Means More $$$$$

Take one ruthless man and 471 helpless puppies: this equals BIG MONEY for Micheal Berens.

In 1998, he received $210,542; in 1999, he received $269,924; and so far this year he has received $93,392. His grant is scheduled to continue through April of 2001.


What can you do to stop the research conducted by Michael Berens on female dogs and their puppies at Barrow Neurological Institute? Write letters, send emails, and make phone calls to the following officials: Ask them to stop the research currently being conducted by Michael Berens on beagle mothers and their puppies at Barrow Neurological Institute of St. Joseph's Hospital. Address your letters to:  And Write to the Sisters of Mercy.

The Arizona Republic Newspaper
200 East Van Buren
Phoenix, Arizona 85004

United States Congressional Representatives from Arizona

Matthew Salmon, (R)
PHONE: 1-202-225-2635
FAX: 1-202-225-3405
E-MAIL: [email protected]

Ed Pastor (D)
PHONE: 1-202-225-4065
FAX: 1-202-225-1655
E-MAIL: [email protected]

Robert Stump (R)
PHONE: 1-202-225-4576
FAX: 1-202-225-6328

John Shadegg (R)
PHONE: 1-202-225-3361
FAX: 1-202-225-3462
E-MAIL: [email protected]

James T. Kolbe (R)
PHONE: 1-202-225-2542
FAX: none
E-MAIL: [email protected]

John Hayworth (R)
PHONE: 1-202-225-2190
FAX: 1-202-225-3263

William Foley
President and Chief Executive Officer
Catholic Healthcare West Arizona
350 West Thomas Road
Phoenix, AZ 85013
Telephone: 602-406-3000
Fax: 602-406-7143

Linda Hunt
Chief Operating Officer
Catholic Healthcare West Arizona
350 West Thomas Road
Phoenix, AZ 85013
Telephone: 602-406-3000

Gerald Smithson
Vice President
Catholic Healthcare West Arizona
350 West Thomas Road
Phoenix, AZ 85013
Telephone: 602-406-3000

Bishop Thomas O'Brien
Catholic Diocese of Phoenix
400 East Monroe
Phoenix, Arizona 85004
Telephone: 602-257-0030

Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
102 W. Madison Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85003

Richard Romley
Maricopa County Attorney
301 West Jefferson, Suite 800
Phoenix, AZ 85003
Telephone: 602-506-3187

Dr. Nelson Garnett
Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare
National Institutes of Health
Telephone: (301) 594-2382
Fax: (301) 402-2803
Email: [email protected]

United States Senators from Arizona

NAME: Jon Kyl (R)
PHONE: 1-202-224-4521
FAX: 1-202-228-1239
E-MAIL: [email protected]

John McCain, (R)
PHONE: 1-202-224-2235
FAX: 1-202-228-2862
E-MAIL: [email protected]

Dr. Wendy Baldwin
Deputy Director of Extramural Research
National Institutes of Health
Bldg. 1, Rm. 144
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892
phone: 301-496-1096
fax: 301-402-3469
[email protected]

Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D.
National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke
Telephone: 301-496-9746
Fax: 301-496-0296


Dr. Berens clearly has failed in this research. His rate of successful implants in fetal puppies is less than 5% and, perhaps, as low as 2%.

There is no indication that this research will be successful in the future or that the fetal surgery and predicted development of a tumor will ever succeed. The Arizona State University Care and Use Committee had such strong objections to this canine glioma research that it terminated the protocol at ASU. ASU refuses to house dogs or puppies for this research.

The members of the ASU IACUC voiced concerns over almost every aspect of this research from the first time it was reviewed at ASU. These concerns included the continuing high failure rate of the project, the lengthy surgery for the mothers, the high number of pre-term and post-term deaths of the puppies, the number of surgeries to which each puppy bearing a brain tumor was subjected, the stress and illness caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy to these puppies, and the prolonged confinement and killing of healthy puppies because they did not develop the predicted tumor.

Dr. Berens is unsuccessfully attempting to develop an in vivo canine model. Cancer research in this area has moved from in vivo models to in vitro models.

There is no evidence that this model, if ever made viable, will directly apply anymore relevantly than other models to humans. Dr. Berens is manipulating the immune system of the unborn puppy in a way that seriously affects the tumor development. This is not the way tumors of this type occur in humans or dogs. In ten years of development, this procedure has continually failed.

Female dogs and their unborn puppies are being subjected to procedures that a human could not ethically be subjected to.

Dr. Berens and others successfully have grown cell lines from human brain tumors and should continue to use human cell lines.

You are aware that Dr. Berens has patented the procedure for injecting the glioma cells into the fetal puppies. Basic research, funded by National Institutes of Health with your tax dollars, should not support the patenting of procedures to be marketed for profit.

You are aware that this canine model has been published only twice by Dr. Berens in the literature and presented only three times as a paper. You are aware that this research has been cited very infrequently in the cancer literature. You are aware that NIH uses the publication process as one index of the value of research and you wonder why research that has been published and cited so little is being supported.

One species cannot suffer at the expense of another. You are aware that this is a failed project and that Dr. Berens has been told to discontinue this research by his colleagues in the scientific community.

You are aware the Michael Berens is motivated to make this patented procedure work in order to market the puppies bearing gliomas for toxicology testing and neuro-oncology research.

You believe that the continued injection of cancer cells during the fetal surgeries, the pre-term births, stillbirths, and birth defects caused by these procedures constitute serious physical injury to the puppies and cruelty to animals under the Arizona statutes.

You believe that the very high failure rate together with the clear message from the ASU IACU to stop the research, reflects how unnecessary and unimportant this research is.

You object to continued funding by NIH of Barrow Neurological Institute projects that were not reviewed every three years under their animal welfare assurance filed with OLAW.

You will not continue to support St. Joseph's Hospital and Barrow Neurological Institute as a donor as long as Michael Berens continues the canine glioma project.

Tell Lattie Coor, President of Arizona State University, that you want Michael Berens removed as an adjunct faculty member until he permanently stops these studies on the puppies. Tell President Lattie Coor you commend ASU and the ASU IACUC for withdrawing support of this research.

Ask Senator McCain, Senator Kyl, and the Arizona Congressional members to investigate the reasons that Barrow Neurological Institute failed to comply with the three-year de novo review process and the reasons why NIH granted Barrow extensions to make up the reviews.

Any other points that you would like to make.


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