If you have ever played a video game, you know that precision is the goal. Now imagine that busting cancer cells is your target, and pieces of genetic material called aptamers are your helpers. Cancer researchers are exploring aptamers as a promising new approach to targeting cancer treatment.
Characterized in film and media as ferocious and malicious creatures, sharks ignite our basic survival instincts: kill or be killed. However, antibodies in the blood of these ocean carnivores could lead to a new treatment for breast cancer, the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States.
The naked mole rat has a very long life span, with some living as long as 32 years, but what makes it unique is its apparent resistance to developing cancer. A team at the University of Rochester first described a process of tumor blockade called early contact inhibition that is present in the naked mole rat but not in any other mammalian species. This process might be part of this rat’s unique tumor busting superpower, effectively protecting it from the rapid cell growth and division that occurs with cancer.
Great Danes are one of the best canine models for human cancer research because they have the highest chance of developing a malignancy in their lifetime. Compared to lab rats and mice, Great Danes are better models for human disease because they are genetically more similar. All too often, treatments that have worked in lab mice haven’t worked when we’ve taken them to human clinical trials. [The canine] model is much closer to human disease.
Cancers involve out-of-control cell growth. Scientists believe that the zebrafish may hold the key to gaining a better understanding of how cancer moves and changes, which could provide insight into how to create better treatments. Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have developed a transparent mutant zebrafish commonly known as the “Casper” zebrafish that allows scientists to watch cancers develop in adult fish.
Neuroblastoma is a rare form of cancer that doesn’t occur in the wild- only in humans. Scientists have recently found that neuroblastoma is caused by a mutation in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene. Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit flies, also have the ALK gene and may be able to serve as animal models for this rare disease.