Mechanisms of cancer resistance in long-lived mammals

Have you known that certain animals are unable to develop cancer? Do you also know why?

Cancer researchers have traditionally used the mouse and the rat as staple model organisms. These animals are very short-lived, reproduce rapidly, and are highly prone to cancer. They have been very useful for modeling some human cancer types and testing experimental treatments; however, these cancer-prone species offer little for understanding the mechanisms of cancer resistance. Recent technological advances have expanded bestiary research to non-standard model organisms that possess unique traits of very high value to humans, such as cancer resistance and longevity. In recent years, several discoveries have been made in non-standard mammalian species, providing new insights into the natural mechanisms of cancer resistance. These include mechanisms of cancer resistance in the naked mole rat, blind mole rat, and elephant. In each of these species, evolution took a different path, leading to novel mechanisms. Many other long-lived mammalian species display cancer resistance, including whales, grey squirrels, microbats, cows, and horses. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of cancer resistance in all these species is important and timely, as, ultimately, these mechanisms could be harnessed for the development of human cancer therapies.

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