July 24, 2009
Trout Trump Rats for Cancer Research
By Dave Hurteau
From The Oregonian:
A rainbow trout can inspire and inform. It can lead a young fisherman to a life-long career studying human health. It can reveal the risks of carcinogens, and help develop treatments to prevent cancer. . . .
George Bailey knows all this and has plenty of fish stories. As a professor, he spent three decades studying disease with trout in his aquatic laboratory at Oregon State University.
It might seem odd that you can learn about people from trout, but in both animals, DBP [an environmental carcinogen] causes stomach and liver cancer by attacking and damaging DNA, tiny strings of molecules that contain cell-building information. People are good at repairing DNA, but trout have more difficulty. Like a canary in a coal mine, fish tend to get sick before people.
Rats and mice are canaries, too[, but trout] have an inherently lower cancer rate. Only one in a thousand trout would get stomach cancer, compared with the rat rate of one in 20. That's why trout’s' cancer risk to DBP can be measured at low levels.