Mouse Models Push Forward Breast Cancer Research
Animal models are necessary tools in the scientific community, as they allow investigators to control for genetics and other variables. Animal models of cancer are mostly comparative living systems that help scientists uncover the causes of cancer, the mechanisms of metastasis, and methods for preventing and treating the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.
There are several types of cancer models that are used including animals with spontaneously occurring cancer, genetically altered animal models, those with unaltered genetic make-up for gene identification, and animals that develop cancer after being stimulated by environmental factors.
Can you use mouse models to study whether environmental factors lead to cellular changes and breast cancer development? The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences website discusses how novel technologies developed to create conditional knockouts, mouse transgenics, and bitransgenics pose the mouse model as an important mechanism in the laboratory. The new technologies have helped scientists study gain or loss of function mutations and genetic interactions as well as provide a useful preclinical model of breast cancer.
Mouse models have been genetically engineered to analyze breast cancer proneness and inefficiencies with DNA repair genes. For example, the BRCA genes have been excessively studied in laboratory mice. P53 knockout mice were investigated to determine whether the mutation makes the animal models more susceptible to breast cancer. It was found, however, that the p53 mutation makes a model more prone to carcinogen-induced breast cancer.
Additionally, if the genetic mutation was gamma-irradiated or progesterone-stimulated, the likelihood of tumorigenesis increased. Jeffrey Rosen of the Baylor College of Medicine proposes that new endpoints are necessary for analyzing breast cancer in animal models.
Rosen explained that early signs of cancers on their way toward malignancy are missing from scientific literature. He went on to discuss three possible animal models for determining early signs of disease and studying preclinical breast cancer:
- Transgenic mice showing particular oncogenes
- Conditional knockout mice exhibiting BRCA1 mutations in the mammary gland
- Breast epithelial cells that are transplanted and genetically engineered
Hormonal signaling pathways are very important for the development of the breast as well as the potential for breast cancer to proliferate. Preclinical research suggests that cancer may respond to hormones in an autocrine manner because healthy breast cells behave in a paracrine manner when progesterone is introduced.
Essentially, it is beneficial in the field of cancer research to engineer mouse models that can assist in studying breast cancer carcinogenesis and the environmental impact of this disease. Breast cancer affects one in eight women throughout a lifetime and leads to approximately 40,000 deaths every year throughout the United States.
Animal models continue to play a major role in scientific endeavors and may assist in putting a stop to this disease, specifically in the research behind environmental factors for cancer progression.
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