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Mutation the Secret to Cancer-Resistant Mice' Success

White blood cells interpret tumor's defenses as a signal to attack, new research shows

TUESDAY, Oct. 31, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A new study has uncovered the secrets of cancer-resistant mice.

Researchers say a mutation in these mice enables their white blood cells to overwhelm the natural defense of malignant cells and kill them.

In these mice, several types of white blood cells sense, find, surround and kill cancer cells. This line of mice was first discovered by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center scientists in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The team published their findings in the journal Cancer Immunity.

"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," the researchers noted.

In ordinary mice, self-defensive signals produced by cancer cells suppress the white blood cells and prevent them from attacking. However, a mutated gene or genes in the cancer-resistant mice make the white blood cells interpret the cancer cells' self-defensive signals as an invitation to attack.

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

Earlier this year, the same research team published a study that found that white blood cells from the cancer-resistant mice cured advanced cancers in ordinary mice and also protected normal mice from what would normally be deadly doses of highly aggressive new cancers.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about cancer.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, Oct. 31, 2006
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