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A classic method for modeling skin cancer is featured in Cold Spring Harbor Protocols

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. (Tues., Sept. 4, 2007) Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of human cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But in order to more fully understand skin cancer in humans, scientists must use model organisms, such as mice, to study the disease in the laboratory.

This months release of Cold Spring Harbor Protocols ( includes free access to a protocol for generating mice with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), one of the most common types of skin cancer. The procedure involves injecting mice with a drug called DMBA, which mutates (and thereby activates) a tumor-promoting gene. A second drug, called TPA, then encourages the proliferation of cells that carry the mutated gene. The resulting mass of cells is a tumor.

The protocol, freely available at, describes how to monitor and evaluate the mice for clinical signs of tumorigenesis. It also includes methods for preparing the tumor tissues for histological analysis, which allows scientists to study characteristics of the tumors at a microscopic level.

The protocol is from Dr. Michael Girardis group at the Yale University School of Medicine ( Girardis team has used the procedure to examine the role of the immune system in susceptibility to SCC. It can also be used to test other physiological and environmental factors that may influence the growth and progression of skin cancer in mice, and will ultimately help scientists to better understand and control the disease in humans.

Also freely available from Cold Spring Harbor Protocols this month is an article that describes an efficient method for testing individuals for specific DNA variations called SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) ( The method, called the oligonucleotide ligation assay (OLA), will be useful for identifying individuals with disease-related mutations and other genetic variants. It was contributed by Dr. Stuart Macdonald from the University of Kansas (


Contact: Maria Smit
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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