Canadian scientists claim to have injected human cancer into a mouse for the first time - to learn more about the disease in its earliest stages and how to stop its spread.
Previously, researchers would engineer mice to develop cancer but it was the animal form of the disease. They could also implant human cancers into mice but missed studying how the disease originated.
By inserting just one cancerous gene into human stem cells, John Dick, the lead author of the study and a senior scientist at Princess Margaret Hospital, and his colleagues were able to seed leukaemia - a cancer of the blood in specially bred lab mice.
"We haven't proven it, but we believe this process could be used for other cancers too," Dick said.
The animal model could translate into more effective therapies, according to the latest issue of the journal Science.
"By just studying the tumour at the end, we didn't know how the tumour was created," Dick added.
This crucial new tool could help scientists better understand the whole process and more rationally target the critical pathways to eradicate these cells that lie at the heart of the cancer.