|Dr. Deryl Troyer and Dr. Bob Rowland join forces on cancer research described as a possible “game changer.” (Photos courtesy of K-State Photo Services. Photo illustration by Rebecca Martineau.)
While researching ways to improve animal health Dr. Bob Rowland, a virologist and professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, and Dr. Deryl Troyer, professor of anatomy and physiology, have made two important discoveries that can also improve human health. Not only have they found pigs with severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, but they are also the first to discover the connection with human cancer, particularly melanomas and pancreatic cancers.
It began with Dr. Rowland’s research with controlling and eliminating porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, or PRRS. The work led to a fortuitous discovery: a naturally occurring line of immunodeficient pigs.
“Pigs are closely related to humans anatomically and physiologically,”
After the discovery of SCID pigs,
“This is a great example of collaborative and interdisciplinary research,” Dr. Troyer said. “With two perspectives, there is often a synergy that evolves because of different ways of thinking.”
The research opens a variety of doors for both animal and human health research. It may now be easier for scientists to improve strategies for bone marrow transplants. They also have a better way to detect cancer drug side effects and test surgical interventions, Dr. Troyer said.
“The potential is a little daunting because it is as if there is no horizon limiting possible ways to utilize this model,” Dr. Troyer said. “It is an opportunity for Kansas State University to be a leader in the field and to become a center for large animal biomedical research.”
The scientists see possibilities for new, large scale research with the Kansas State University Johnson Cancer Research Center as well as cancer research partnerships and collaborations with the University of Kansas Cancer Center, especially with its recent National Cancer Institute designation.
“Agriculture benefits the people of the state in so many ways,” Dr. Rowland said. “While it includes jobs and exports, there is a human element that we sometimes forget. This is a good example of how we can take animal health research and all of a sudden it has the potential to help cure human cancer.”