Mole rats and cancer

Mole rats and cancer

Obviously the Express’s story on an universal cancer cure was totally misleading ( ) , but the whole mole rat thing is interesting in that they seem to be the only mammal that doesn’t get cancer.

Is the reason(s) why something that could have an application in humans or is it down to them living in dark holes with little oxygen supply – a kind of suspended animation?

Be interested in hearing other peoples’ thoughts

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  • Last year researchers found that naked mole rats produce a hyaluronan polymer (a large sugar molecule) that prevents cells from clumping together. When they inhibited this production of this hyaluronan, the mice developed tumours. Apparently it hasn't translated well to human cell culture yet.

  • Hi Dr Matthew,

    We covered this research when it hit the headlines in June: These are remarkably fascinating creatures, that deserve their own headlines!

  • Yes, this is fascinating stuff and deserving of headlines without any need to exaggerate or mislead.

  • I guess there's an upside to being a mole then.

  • CR-UK also wrote a nice rebuttal to the irresponsible headline:


    I think it's really interesting that they didn't develop tumours after the DMBA/TPA treatment, to the same extent as other mice and rats. And that this indicates that it isn't their environment that is protecting them. This could suggest that they have evolved certain mechanisms to be able to survive in this environment and this has also lead to them being able to evade tumours, possibly by exploiting the same mechanisms.

    Exciting new nonetheless!

  • Cancer Research UK's science blog is excellent - they take complex subject matter and explain it clearly and interestingly. See, for instance, this week's post on the Sleeping Beauty gene scienceblog.cancerresearchu...

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