Zebrafish as a Cancer Model

Harma Feitsma, Edwin Cuppen
Molecular Cancer Research2008
The zebrafish has developed into an important model organism for biomedical research over the last decades. Although the main focus of zebrafish research has traditionally been on developmental biology, keeping and observing zebrafish in the lab led to the identification of diseases similar to humans, such as cancer, which subsequently became a subject for study. As a result, about 50 articles have been published since 2000 in which zebrafish were used as a cancer model. Strategies used include carcinogenic treatments, transplantation of mammalian cancer cells, forward genetic screens for proliferation or genomic instability, reverse genetic target-selected mutagenesis to inactivate known tumor suppressor genes, and the generation of transgenics to express human oncogenes. Zebrafish have been found to develop almost any tumor type known from human, with similar morphology and, according to gene expression array studies, comparable signaling pathways. However, tumor incidences are relatively low, albeit highly comparable between different mutants, and tumors develop late in life. In addition, tumor spectra are sometimes different when compared with mice and humans. Nevertheless, the zebrafish model has created itsownniche in cancer research, complementing existing models with its specific experimental advantages and characteristics. Examples of these are imaging of tumor progression in living fish by fluorescence, treatment with chemical compounds, and screening possibilities not only for chemical modifiers but also for genetic enhancers and suppressors. This reviewaims to provide a comprehensive overview of the state of the art of zebrafish as a model in cancer research.

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