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New mouse model closely mimics human cancers

BOSTON--A team led by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists has developed a more human-like mouse model of cancer they say will aid the search for cancer-causing genes and improve the predictive value of laboratory drug testing.

Ronald A. DePinho, MD, of Dana-Farber has created mice that form tumors that are more genetically complex and unstable -- and therefore a better stand-in for human cancers -- than those of conventional genetically engineered mouse models of cancer. To characterize these mouse tumors, DePinho collaborated with Lynda Chin, MD, also at Dana-Farber, to perform high-resolution array-CGH profiling, a genome-scanning technology that can define regions of DNA abnormalities.

The report has been posted as an advanced online by the journal Nature and will appear in a forthcoming print version.

The scientists, working with a large dataset generated by the Chin laboratory during the past several years, compared the patterns of these chromosomal changes in the mice with patterns observed in more than 400 human tumor specimens, including melanoma, lung, colon, and pancreatic cancers, and multiple myeloma.

The comparisons showed that genetic instability in the mouse cancer cells caused DNA alterations that in many cases were identical to such changes in human tumors. This match up, said the researchers, suggested that the new mouse model may be useful in guiding the search for genes that are important for cancer growth. To that end, it may facilitate research associated with the National Institutes of Health-funded Human Cancer Genome Atlas Project, which involves sifting the entire human DNA and identifying the immensely complicated, interacting molecular changes that initiate and maintain tumors.

"We found a rather striking overlap of genetic alterations in the mouse and human cancers, which should greatly help us sort out genetic events that drive cancers from those that are simply irrelevant 'passe
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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5357
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
24-May-2007


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