All the cells in our bodies are programmed to die. As they get older, our cells accumulate toxic molecules that make them sick. In response, they eventually break down, clearing the way for new, healthy cells to grow.
This 'programmed cell death' is a natural and essential part of our wellbeing. Every day, billions of cells die like this in order for the body to continue functioning as it is supposed to.
But as with any programme, errors can occur and sick cells that are supposed to die continue to grow and divide. These damaged cells can eventually become malignant and generate tumours. A thorough understanding of what makes these sick cells cheat death can lead to novel approaches to prevent and treat cancer.
In recent studies, it was shown that cancer cells override the natural check of cell death by stimulating the over-production of certain molecules that enables them to survive even when they get damaged and become malignant. The next step is to understand how these molecules get over-produced in our bodies.
While the laboratory use of cancer cells is very informative, there are major limitations as they do not show a progressive development of the disease within the body. By contrast the use of animals will give us a better understanding of the disease onset. In addition, we chose mouse models because mouse and human genomes are about 85% the same and those similarities have made the mouse a powerful model for studying human biology and disease. Therefore, we believe that our studies are likely to generate unprecedented results that have the potential to translate into greater clinical benefit for human conditions, such as liver cancer, where medical needs are greatest.
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