They could be the tiniest heroes in the war against cancer. Transparent fish with human-like genes are allowing scientists to watch the drama of how cancer grows and spreads.
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Melissa Medalie: These tanks hold thousands of zebrafish, but if you take a closer look, you'll notice some have lost their stripes. Researchers altered their DNA and created transparent fish all in the name of research. Richard Mark White: Fish have genes that are amazingly similar to humans. Melissa Medalie: Dr. Richard Mark White transplanted melanoma into the see-through fish. He now watches how cancer grows and spreads in real time in a living organism. Richard Mark White: So we can see the origins of just how a tumor started and how it spread within the body over time, which is pretty analogous as to what happens in a human: It starts small and gets bigger. Melissa Medalie: Dr. White says the fish prove there's a pattern to the cancer spread -- important in treating humans since the spread of cancer is what kills. Richard Mark White: We're sort of realizing pretty quickly that when tumors cells spread, they do it in a pretty organized way. It's really an amazing picture of how tumors grow and spread in a very rapid time. In a way, you could never do it in an animal or, obviously, in a human. Melissa Medalie: Understanding that organized way could help patients like Heather Fraelick get better treatment to stop cancer from spreading. At 25 she discovered melanoma on her arm and later had a recurrence. Heather Fraelick: I was scared to find out the results from my surgery, because I knew that if the melanoma had traveled, my odds weren't good for survival. Melissa Medalie: The goal -- improve those odds and find new treatments, using fish as a window into the body's fight against cancer. I am Melissa Medalie reporting.
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