Researchers led by Inder Verma, professor in the Laboratory of Gentics, have developed a versatile mouse model of glioblastoma—the most common and deadly brain cancer in humans—that closely resembles the development and progression of human brain tumors that arise naturally.
"Mouse models of human cancer have taught us a great deal about the basic principles of cancer biology," says Verma. "By definition, however, they are just that: approximations that simulate a disease but never fully capture the molecular complexity underlying disease in humans."
Trying to mimic randomly occurring mutations that lie at the heart of all tumors, the Salk researchers used modified viruses to shuttle cancer-causing oncogenes into a handful of cells in adult mice. Their strategy, described in the Jan. 4, 2009 issue of the journal Nature Medicine, may not only prove a very useful method to faithfully reproduce different types of tumors, but also to elucidate the nature of elusive cancer stem cells.