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Wake Forest scientists develop colony of mice that fight off virulent cancer

ung, stomach and intestine.

But, said Cui, one male mouse unexpectedly remained free of the cancer despite repeated injections. The Wake Forest team was able to show this was genetic and to develop a colony from that single mouse. The colony, now about 700 mice, remains exclusively at Wake Forest. Meantime, the original mouse "remained healthy, cancer-free and eventually died of old age after a normal lifespan."

When the cancer-resistant mice were bred with normal partners, the researchers found that about half of their offspring were resistant to cancer cells, indicating that this genetic protection is dominant and is likely due to a change in one gene. The resistance continued in future generations.

Depending on the age of the mouse, some had complete resistance -- the cancer never got started -- while others displayed spontaneous regression -- the cancer started developing over a period of a couple of weeks, but then it rapidly disappeared in less than 24 hours.

"The mice became healthy and immediately resumed normal activities including mating," Cui said. They tested them again with another injection of the cancer cells. He said that once the mice developed the protection, they never again developed the cancer.

The researchers said the mouse model "represents a unique opportunity to examine cancer/host interactions."

Cui said the new mouse model also may help in solving another medical mystery -- why cancer becomes more common when people age. The usual explanation is that mutations accumulate in the body, leading to precancerous conditions that eventually become cancer.

But, he said, the mouse model suggests that the body's natural protection -- which scientists call host resistance -- declines with age.

"This is at a preliminary stage, but very promising," said Mark Willingham, MD., professor of pathology and a collaborator. "Our hope is that, some day, this will have an impact on human
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Contact: Robert Conn
rconn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4587
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
28-Apr-2003


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