How Animal Models Have Advanced Pancreatic Cancer Research
Pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest 5-year survival rates and leads to approximately 40,000 deaths in the United States each year, the American Cancer Society reported. The survival rates of this disease are very low – only 6 percent of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are alive five years later.
However, incorporating animal models in pancreatic cancer research has proved to be very useful. One study from the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden showed that direct tumor xenografts offer certain benefits over other models. These tumor models contain features and genetic traits, which is helpful in determining patient outcome.
One experiment the Swedish researchers incorporated is implanting mice with tumors gathered after surgery. Tumor characteristics and clinical endpoints were measured. Direct tumor-grafts and in-vivo assays were developed to illustrate the molecular characteristics of the original patient tumor. The results of the biological assays assist doctors in improving the accuracy of postoperative follow-up and customized treatments.
Pancreatic cancer is generally resistant to conventional treatment and the particular mechanisms underlying the development and progression of pancreatic cancer are poorly understood by the scientific community. In particular, the lack of models showing in vivo changes in tumors post-treatment is responsible for the scarce knowledge in this area. However, one solution found to be favorable was the use of immunodeficient mice to engraft human pancreatic tumors and compare genetic expression factors in vivo before and after neoadjuvant therapy.
A published paper from the University of Minnesota discusses the focus in the preclinical research sector on finding better pancreatic tumor models, specifically genetically engineered models. One of the easiest animal models to work with are subcutaneous xenograft models, as its response to treatment is simpler to monitor.
Orthotopic xenograft models of pancreatic cancer, on the other hand, are much more difficult to develop. Nonetheless, this type of model allows researchers to study pancreatic cancer therapy on the patient tumor in its natural environment. It is also a very useful replica because up to 60 percent of pancreatic cancer specimens are able to spread locally and metastasize – a very close imitation of human disease.
Genetically-engineered mouse models have also become more standard for studying pancreatic cancer therapies in the preclinical stages. The previous failures found between comparing therapeutic response of human tumors in clinical trials and mouse xenografts has led scientists to genetically engineer mouse models to more closely reflect human biological reactions.
Researchers have developed these mouse models to target various genes in specific cellular boundaries. Specifically, animal models are used to study gene mutations in pancreatic tissues. Essentially, multiple tumor models are available for studying pancreatic cancer treatments. Since these animal models have both benefits and disadvantages, it is useful to analyze a therapeutic in multiple tumor models.
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