Wired has this article about a study in which scientists were able to breed mice there are immune to cancer. The best part is that these mice passed their immunity on to their offspring!
This was all done by introducing a gene called Par-4 which causes cells to “self-destruct when they become cancerous.” The mice which had the gene implanted “resisted researchers’ attempts to give them breast, pancreatic, head and neck cancer.”
If there was such a simple gene (it sounds simple) to resist cancer I would have thought that this gene would already be enormously widespread (it was actually discovered in humans). I can think of a couple of reasons why it wouldn’t be so widespread:
- Because cancer is most often a late-onset disease it probably didn’t have a huge impact on reproductive success in our evolutionary past. Very few of our ancestors lived long enough to have benefited from cancer resistance!
- It is plausible that the gene has some other detrimental impacts which prevented it from becoming very widespread. Hopefully such impacts would be discovered during experiments on mice.
Be that as it may, all this is still very promising.