A 'game-changer': By studying animal health, researchers find improved ways for developing, testing cancer therapies

August 15, 2012, Kansas State University

(Medical Xpress) -- A group of Kansas State University researchers has made valuable findings in the search for cancer's cure.

While researching ways to improve animal health, the scientists -- Raymond "Bob" Rowland, a and professor of diagnostic medicine and , and Deryl Troyer, professor of anatomy and physiology --have made two important discoveries that can also improve . Not only have they found pigs with severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, but they are also the first to discover the connection with , particularly melanomas and pancreatic cancers.

The researchers call it a scientific achievement with huge potential to improve surgeries and drug development involved with cancer.

"This could be a game-changer," Troyer said.

It began with Rowland's research with controlling and eliminating porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, or PRRS. The work led to a fortuitous discovery: a naturally occurring line of immunodeficient pigs.

"Pigs are closely related to humans anatomically and physiologically," Rowland said. "This can have huge potential for human ."

After the discovery of SCID pigs, Rowland turned to Troyer, who performs cancer research. Their collaborative work not only enables researchers to better study SCID pigs, but they can also apply their research to the study of human cancer and anti-.

"This is a great example of collaborative and interdisciplinary research," Troyer said. "With two perspectives, there is often a synergy that evolves because of different ways of thinking."

The researchers have already studied human melanomas and human pancreatic cancers, which are devastating and a big target in cancer research, Troyer said. They want to apply the same methods to other types of solid cancers and blood like leukemia.

While similar research has been performed with SCID mice, it has not adapted well to human cancer research. Rowland said there is about a 90 percent failure rate in translation of results from mice to humans. Research involving SCID pigs may be more beneficial to human cancer research because pigs are closer anatomically to humans.

The research opens a variety of doors for both animal and human health research. It may now be easier for scientists to improve strategies for bone marrow transplants. They also have a better way to detect cancer drug side effects and test surgical interventions, Troyer said.

"The potential is a little daunting because it is as if there is no horizon limiting possible ways to utilize this model, " Troyer said. "It is an opportunity for Kansas State University to be a leader in the field and to become a center for large animal biomedical research."

For Rowland, the discovery also opens new doors for infectious disease research.

"There are a lot of pig diseases for which we still don't know how they function and how they cause disease," Rowland said. "Now we are able to ask the question, 'What role does the immune system play in clearing the virus or in causing disease?'"

The research also improves the study of zoonotic diseases, which are diseases -- like swine influenza -- that can be transmitted between animals and humans. By developing vaccines for diseases in SCID pigs, scientists can gain insight into human vaccine development. The university's Biosecurity Research Institute provides the ideal location for developing these vaccines, Rowland said.

The scientists have performed research on a small scale and now want to build it up to a larger scale. They see possibilities for new research with the Kansas State University Johnson Cancer Research Center as well as cancer research partnerships and collaborations with the University of Kansas Cancer Center, especially with its recent National Cancer Institute designation.

"Agriculture benefits the people of the state in so many ways," Rowland said. "While it includes jobs and exports, there is a human element that we sometimes forget. This is a good example of how we can take research and all of a sudden it has the potential to help cure human cancer."

The research recently appeared in the journal BioResearch Open Access. Rowland and Troyer have another upcoming publication in the Journal of Veterinary Pathology.

Explore further: Research uncovers genetic marker that could help control, eliminate PRRS virus

Related Stories

Research uncovers genetic marker that could help control, eliminate PRRS virus

March 15, 2012
A collaborative discovery involving Kansas State University researchers may improve animal health and save the U.S. pork industry millions of dollars each year.

Older cancer survivor population to increase substantially

October 6, 2011
Over the next decade, the population of cancer survivors over 65 years of age will increase by approximately 42 percent.

Study finds pigs susceptible to virulent ebolavirus can transmit the virus to other animals

May 13, 2011
Canadian investigators have shown that a species of ebolavirus from Zaire that is highly virulent in humans can replicate in pigs, cause disease, and be transmitted to animals previously unexposed to the virus. The findings ...

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.