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Cancer-Resistant Mice

Scientists have created cancer-resistant mice by deleting certain genes that govern the formation of blood vessels, a breakthrough that could lead to new drugs for wiping out tumors in people.

CBS News Health Contributor Dr. Bernadine Healy reports on their findings.

Scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center bred mice that are resistant to multiple forms of cancer.

By focusing on a process called angiogenesis, researchers identified and removed two genes that are necessary for the formation of blood vessels that provide the nourishment malignant tumors need to grow.

This research indicates that mice who lack genes Id1 and Id3 required for angiogenesis failed to support tumor growth.

The findings, published in Nature, open the door to the development of drugs that may prevent the metastases of several types of cancer by inactivating genes.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Robert Benezra, has been researching the genes, Id1 and Id3, for many years in embryos.

They play a vital role in development by triggering the production of brain cells as well as the branching and sprouting of blood vessels into the brain, he says.

The mice, bred with the reduced levels of Id1 and Id3, were injected with breast cancer and lymphoma cells and none developed tumors.

Dr. Benezra's team is also evaluating angiostatin and endostatin, the anti-angiogenic proteins recently identified by Dr. Judah Folkman and his colleagues at Harvard University.

James Pluda, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, says: "This may be another piece in the puzzle, which might bring us closer to better understanding the process and therefore coming up with better therapeutics for blocking the process."

But scientists stress that further research is needed before any human applications are developed.

For one thing, mice are much simpler creatures than humans. And the cancer-resistant mice were injected with malignant cells; they did not develop cancer naturally.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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