Scientists have discovered a cancer-proof mouse that can survive being injected with cancer cells. If they can figure out how the mice do it, they may be able to develop gene or drug therapies that will make us cancer-proof too. Doctors know that, in rare cases, cancers go away by themselves, but they never knew it could be genetic. The cancer-proof mouse was discovered by accident, while scientists were working on other experiments.
They've now bred the mouse, a male, and produced seven generations of mice, some of which were able to pass on the cancer resistance. "You can give them many, many tumor cells and the mice get rid of them," says biochemist Zheng Cui. "The resistance appears to be caused by just one gene, or a cluster of closely related genes." The mice are resistant to several different types of cancer. Cui says, "What's surprising is it appears these mice are able to recognize something in common to all cancer cell lines."
Pathologist Mark Willingham says the mice don't kill cancer in the usual way, by using white blood cells. Instead, the body's immune system attacks the tumors and ruptures them. "This is at a preliminary stage, but very promising," he says. "Our hope is that, some day, this will have an impact on human cancer."
One thing they can't figure out is how the mice can detect the cancer cells in the first place. Cancer biologist Paul Ko Ferrigno says, "I'm intrigued and excited. If they can pin down what the immune basis for resistance to cancer is it should be straightforward to train a patient's immune system to do the same."
A world without cancer? This is mind-bending, indeed!
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