Recent research has discovered that the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) has some interesting genetic characteristics that may lead to a cure for cancer. The fact they can live longer than any other rodent, combined with their inability to contract cancer, has piqued the interest of geneticists, and resulted in one discovery in particular that could be used to inhibit the growth of tumors.
The Wellcome Library holds a wide range of literature on genetic research and the history of cancer treatments and cancer care, including a number of films and videos on genetics and inheritance, as well as cancer, from the 1930s to the present day. The following video, Book of Life, from 2001 highlights the Sanger Institute and some of the genetic research carried out there. This video has been digitised as part of the Wellcome Film project (to watch, see below), and a transcription (PDF) is also available.
And the naked mole rat? Well, the Wellcome Trust featured a naked mole rat in its cine magazine Looking Around (1952) with an enthusiastic narrative by Gerard Hoffnung on its physical appearance and habits (to watch see segment 2). In 1952, of course, scientists were unaware of how significant this “extraordinary little animal” might prove to be in developing genetic therapies for cancer.