Sanford Health scientist honored for reducing animal tests

“My ultimate goal is to develop a completely animal-testing-free culture model."

By: Jacqueline Palfy .

Lush Prize winner Sanford Health reseacher Pilar de la Puente in her lab
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. –- A Sanford Health researcher recently won a Lush Prize for her work with breast cancer tumors.

Pilar de la Puente, Ph.D., is looking for advances in technology and patient-derived 3D-cell culture models to study breast cancer, rather than using animal tissue, which fails to provide an adequate model for recreating the complexities of human tumors.

She plans to use the award money to further study these patient-derived 3D-cell culture models, to better understand the biology of drug resistance in breast cancer and the structure and function of the tumor microenvironment.

The Lush Prize was founded in 2012 in the U.K. to reduce product safety testing on animals. It is a collaboration between the campaigning cosmetics company Lush and the campaigning research group Ethical Consumer. The annual prize is the largest in the non-animal testing sector, and it is the only award to focus solely on the complete replacement of animal tests.

De la Puente is an assistant scientist at Sanford Research and an assistant professor in surgery at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine.

“My ultimate goal is to develop a completely animal-testing-free culture model to study the role of the tumor microenvironment on drug resistance,” de la Puente said in her proposal. “Drug responses in humans cannot be predicted by drug responses in animals.”

De la Puente, 33, accepted the award in the Young Researcher category on Friday. It’s the first Lush Prize for a Sanford Health scientist, and a first for a scientist from Spain.

“This is a great honor for Pilar and also for Sanford Research,” said Jill Weimer, senior director of Sanford Research. “This is the first time one of our scientists has won this award. We look forward to following Pilar’s research.”