Naked Mole Rat vs Cancer

The naked mole rat is a truly remarkable creature. True, some would describe it as ugly, but looks aren't everything and it possesses some unique powers. Firstly and of most interest to scientists, is its apparent resistance to cancer, I'm not sure there has ever been a documented case reported. Secondly they have an incredibly long life span considering their size, up to 30 years, in comparison to a few years for a similarly sized rodent.

In 2013 a paper was published which attributed the cancer resistance of the naked mole rat to the over production of a very high molecular weight form of a molecule called Hyaluronan, "High-molecular-mass hyaluronan mediates the cancer resistance of the naked mole rat." It is this molecule that is responsible for making the naked mole rat's skin wrinkly. In mole rats which had the biological machinery for producing hyaluronan knocked out, tumours were able to be formed. 

In our lab we are looking at the magical properties of this molecule but I do have some concerns. Very little follow up to this break through paper has appeared in the literature and it seems that even if hyaluronan is the key to the naked mole rat's cancer resistance there is little hope of turning it into a therapy. However hyaluronan is known to be a key player in the processes involved in cancer progression, such as metastasis and tumour growth, thus we will keep plugging away.