IMAGE: Antonio Jimeno, MD, PhD and colleagues show that two kinds of stem cells are better than one when transplanting human immune system into mice. view more
Credit: University of Colorado Cancer Center
If a new anti-cancer drug shows promise in a Petri dish, often the next step is to test the drug’s effect in mice. This system tends to work well with drugs that directly target cancer, but breaks down with immunotherapies. That’s because tumors from human cancer samples can only grow in mice with suppressed immune systems. Immunotherapies activate the immune system against cancer. And in a mouse model in which the immune system has been suppressed, there is no immune system to activate against cancer.
One answer to this challenge has been the effort to create “humanized” mice. Basically, a human immune system is transplanted into mice along with the human tumor. A truly humanized mouse model would allow researchers to test the ability of immunotherapies to direct a human immune system against a human cancer…in a mouse.
Unfortunately, mice have tended to resist humanization.
The procedure is a bit like a bone marrow transplant used to treat leukemia. Commonly, chemotherapy or radiation is used to
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