Sunday, April 9, 2017

My mouse model

Here’s a feature of my treatment that I haven’t mentioned till now, because it hadn’t yet taken on any real substance – but now may have. This is my own mouse model.

To put that more bluntly: after my new tumor was biopsied, Sloan Kettering injected a portion of the biopsied material into a mouse. It took some time to see whether the biopsied material would actually grow in the mouse, but now it has. Even now, matters remain indefinite: the material that’s grown in mouse A now evidently must be injected into mouse B and grow there, and then many more repetitions will probably be needed.

But if it works, what they’ll have done is created a living model of my own particular cancer. If we understand it correctly, the theory, or hope, is that then they can see the likely course of my disease, and also gauge the potential impact of treatments by actually applying them to the mouse, or mice, and seeing what happens. (For a lot more information on mouse models, see here. And Teresa recalls that the Nebraska scientists we met at the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation conference, who have been studying cancer cell death, did a poster presentation there on their work with mouse modeling.) 

It may not work. The tumors may die out instead of surviving in the mice. And what happens to the tumors in the mice may not be what happens to them in me. But it’s clearly worth a try.

I say all that, though not without some guilt. My mouse model is good for me, but not for the mice. I tell myself that a lot of our science depends on our use of animals, and that we are not being needlessly cruel. If I could say that someday what is learned may benefit mice as well as men, I would, but I don’t really believe that. All I can really say is that I need what may be learned from this work, and I am grateful to the mice who are involuntarily helping me.

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