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The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Tracy Helman
Animal Facilities Manager

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Peter Mac) is Australia’s largest specialist Cancer Centre. Peter Mac offers the full range of multidisciplinary treatments and clinical care for people with cancer, as well as education and research programs. Peter Mac is the only such comprehensive cancer centre in Australia, and today provides services to nearly half of all the cancer patients in Victoria via five sites, four in metropolitan Melbourne and one in Bendigo.

The research department at Peter Mac has been extremely successful in obtaining research funding and has undergone enormous growth in the recent 10 years. In recent years several spaces had been transformed into animal facilities but space was still running out, in mid 2006 the Research Department decided that it needed to carry out a major re-fit to create more space for mouse based research.

The transgenic animal facility held 2,000 Thoren cages and was deemed at capacity – through extensive consultation with many manufacturers it became clear that the most cost and space efficient solution was a re-fit with the Optimice caging systems. The re-fit took the facility from a 2,000-cage facility to a 4,200 capacity facility in exactly the same footprint.

The Optimice facility has now become the breeding facility for all of our genetically modified mouse strains.

The exceptional air-flow that requires no electrical back-up has allowed us to move to a 14-day cleaning cycle (rather than 7 days) that has been published (by Jax) as the preferred cleaning regime for breeding animals.

It also has meant a huge increase in staff productivity – the staff find the cages easy to work with, quick to change, and, due to the size of the cages, they only need cleaning fortnightly with a complete check every week; and so only one extra staff member has been employed even though the caging numbers have more than doubled.

The animal technicians enjoy working with the system; it is clear and easy to see the animals, organising the animals in order is easy with the dial-up system, and the system is extremely quiet, and there is no smell within the facility.

We have seen a definite improvement in many of our colonies, but in particular the ‘rag’ breeding colony (litter survival rates) and a decrease in aggression amongst stock males that are group housed.

We are more than impressed with the customer support offered by both the local Australian and US Animal Care Systems teams -on a local level through Mr Graham Murray (A.A.C.S.) and in the USA by several of the Animal Care Systems team.

I have no hesitation in recommending this system to other animal facilities and would be more than happy to be contacted for further information on the system.