May 10, 2006 -- A study involving mice may yield new clues in a search for a cancer cure.
The findings may help prevent or treat cancer in mice, but no one knows yet if the same is possible for people.
The study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The researchers included Amy Hicks, PhD, and Zheng Cui, MD, PhD, of Wake Forest University's medical school.
The researchers wanted to see if the white blood cells from cancer-resistant mice could be transferred to other mice for anticancer benefits. The short answer: It worked.P
Hicks, Cui, and colleagues did a series of tests on mice.
In one experiment, the scientists injected cancer-causing cells into cancer-resistant mice and normal mice that weren't cancer-resistant. The cancer-resistant mice didn't develop cancer, but the normal mice did.
In another experiment, the researchers collected white blood cells from the cancer-resistant mice and transferred those white blood cells into normal mice. A week later, the scientists injected cancer-causing cells into two groups of normal mice. One group of mice had received white blood cells from cancer-resistant mice; the other group hadn't.
The mice that had gotten the white blood cell injections from cancer-resistant mice didn't develop cancer. They survived multiple exposures from the cancer-causing cells. The mice that hadn't gotten the white blood cell injections developed cancer.
Another test involved normal mice that had cancer tumors on their backs. The researchers injected those mice with white blood cells from cancer-resistant mice.
The mice's tumors shrank and then disappeared or stabilized. In contrast, similar tumors worsened in mice that hadn't received white blood cells from cancer-resistant mice.
"This finding is remarkable given that reversal of this kind of malignancy has, to our knowledge, never before been reported," the researchers write.
Taken together, these experiments show that in mice, cancer can be both prevented and treated by white blood cells from special cancer-resistant mice.
Why were some of the mice resistant to cancer? The study credits genetics, but the researchers note that they don't know much about it yet or how the process works.
Of course, Hicks and colleagues aren't suggesting mice's white blood cells as cancer treatments for people. The results only apply to mice, and scientists haven't yet found a similar genetic trait in people.