Naked mole rat, Hutchison Hall, University of Rochester River Campus. Naked mole rats are subterranean rodents that seems to be impervious to cancer.

Biologists at the University of Rochester recently uncovered why, and the finding may lead to better treatments and prevention techniques for human cancer patients.

The research team, led by Professor Vera Gorbunova and Assistant Professor Andrei Seluanov, studied naked mole rat cells to better understand the mechanism behind the rodent’s assumed immunity to cancer. They determined that abnormal, precancerous cells release a signal that triggers a massive self-destruct reaction, an anti-tumor response that the researchers dubbed “concerted cell death.”

Recreating this process in human cells could potentially stop cancer growth dead in its tracks.

Photo by Brandon Vick, University of Rochester