Naked Mole-Rats: Resistant to Developing Cancer or Good at Avoiding It?


It is widely accepted that cancer is driven by genetic mutations that confer uncontrolled cell proliferation and tumor formation. For tumors to take hold and grow, cancer cells evolve mechanisms to favorably shape their microenvironment and avoid being cleared by the immune system. Cancer is not unique to human, but rather affects nearly all multicellular organisms albeit to different degrees. The different degrees of cancer susceptibility across the animal kingdom could be attributed to several factors, which have been the subject of several studies in recent years. The naked mole-rat (NMR, Heterocephalus glaber), an exceptionally long-lived rodent, which, as discussed in detail in the next section, displays significant cancer resistance with only a small number of animals being reported to exhibit spontaneous neoplasms. The reason why studying cancer resistance in NMRs is of particular interest is that not only are they now an established laboratory species, but that NMRs are mammals and thus there is great potential for translating knowledge about their cancer resistance into preventing and/or treating cancer in humans and companion animals.