Historical interest in pigs
Pigs have been considered to be an appropriate animal model for many aspects of human biology because of their size and similarities to human physiology.
Pigs and cancer studies
A particularly helpful comparative model is the Sinclair swine melanoma model. This spontaneous cancer led to intriguing clues about the relationships of immune system-related genes and the development of the melanoma which continue to be pursued today.
One additional focus of research is the presence of potentially cancer-causing viral infections in pigs that could be at issue in xenotransplantation studies. Researchers want to ensure that any cross-species therapeutic investigations will not increase the risk of contracting viral triggers of carcinogenesis.
Increasingly the tools of modern genetics and genomics are becoming available for swine. This should ensure that porcine models are firmly embedded in the future of cancer research. An active genome project will also provide additional tools and resources to broaden our understanding of the basic biology and offer new prospects for translational approaches.