Hooking the big one: the promise of zebrafish to reform cancer drug discovery
The NIH has ranked zebrafish as the third most important experimental organism after man. Because of their attributes, the zebrafish might provide opportunities to accelerate the process of drug discovery.
Zebrafish and humans have a strong genetic similarity and many human drugs seem to work as predicted in zebrafish, allowing for zebrafish studies to be directly applicable to humans. Cancer progression in zebrafish recapitulates many aspects of human cancer and as a result, zebrafish have been gaining popularity for their potential use in basic and translational cancer research. Human cancer can be modelled in zebrafish by induction using chemical mutagens, xenotransplantation or by genetic manipulation. Chemical screens based on zebrafish cancer models offer a rapid, powerful and inexpensive means of evaluating the potential of suppression or prevention on cancer. In drug discovery, the value of the fish prescreen is that the results can be obtained with high efficiency, using a wide variety of drug combinations, allow up-front toxicity studies and use statistically significant cohorts at a reasonable expense. It is easily manageable in fish given the number of drugs screen before performing this analysis in mice up front. This article outlines advances that have been made within the growing field of zebrafish cancer models and presents their advantages for chemical drug screening.
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