"The mice are healthy, cancer-free and have a normal life span," the 10-member team reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online edition to be published the week of April 28.
The transplantation of the cancer cells in these special mice provokes a massive infiltration of white blood cells that destroy the cancer, said Zheng Cui, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the lead scientist
"The destruction of cancer cells by these leukocytes is rapid and specific without apparent damage to normal cells," Cui said. "These observations suggest a previously unrecognized mechanism by which the body can fight off cancer."
The discovery of a genetic protection from cancer in mice "may have potential for better therapy or prevention of cancer in people," the team said. It also could help explain why some people are protected against cancer despite prolonged and intense exposure to carcinogens..
The discovery also could help solve another mystery. For years, scientists have been searching for the mechanism that permits spontaneous regression of human cancers without treatment. Cui said these cases are well-documented, but occur rarely. The new mouse colony gives the team the opportunity to study the mechanism in an animal model.
Cui and his colleagues began the mouse colony almost by serendipity. As part of ongoing cancer studies, they were injecting a virulent type of cancer cell that forms highly aggressive cancers in all strains of laboratory mice and rats. When injected into the abdomen, the tumor grows exponentially, causing the abdomen to fill with fluid within two weeks. The cancer can then progress by metastasizing into the liver, kidney, pancreas, l
Contact: Robert Conn
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center