White blood cells of cancer-resistant mice overwhelm natural defenses of cancer cells

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. The discoverers of the unique mouse line that is resistant to cancer have begun to pin down how the process works and found that white blood cells in these mice overwhelm normal defenses of cancer cells.

In a report in Cancer Immunity, a journal of the Academy of Cancer Immunology, posted on line today, Zheng Cui, M.D., Ph.D., and Mark C. Willingham, M.D., of Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues said that several types of white blood cells in the mice attack cancer cells by sensing, finding and surrounding them, forming a "rosette," and then killing them.

"Apparently, the mutation in the cancer-resistant mice renders the white blood cells capable of sensing unique diffusible and surface signals from cancer cells and responding to those signals by migration and physical contact," they said.

The researchers said that in ordinary mice, the white blood cells are suppressed by self-defensive signals coming from the cancer cells and don't attack the cancer. But the mutated gene or genes in the cancer-resistant mouse changes the white blood cells so they interpret those same signals from the cancer cells as an invitation to attack.

"Identifying the mutated gene (or genes) will likely explain this unique resistance to cancer through immunity," said Cui, associate professor of pathology.

Earlier this year, the same team reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that white blood cells taken from these cancer-resistant mice cured advanced cancers in ordinary mice and also protected those normal mice from what should have been lethal doses of highly aggressive new cancers.

But while pursuing the ability of these white blood cells to cure cancer in ordinary mice, and beginning to explore whether the same process could work in humans, the researchers have also continued to investigate how the original mutation works, a mutation that protects the cancer-resistant mice from a wide va

Contact: Robert Conn
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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