Mouse models of human cancer have played a vital role in understanding tumorigenesis and answering experimental questions that other systems cannot address. Advances continue to be made that allow better understanding of the mechanisms of tumor development, and therefore the identification of better therapeutic and diagnostic strategies. We review major advances that have been made in modeling cancer in the mouse and specific areas of research that have been explored with mouse models. For example, although there are differences between mice and humans, new models are able to more accurately model sporadic human cancers by specifically controlling timing and location of mutations, even within single cells. As hypotheses are developed in human and cell culture systems, engineered mice provide the most tractable and accurate test of their validity in vivo. For example, largely through the use of these models, the microenvironment has been established to play a critical role in tumorigenesis, since tumor development and the interaction with surrounding stroma can be studied as both evolve. These mouse models have specifically fueled our understanding of cancer initiation, immune system roles, tumor angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis, and the relevance of molecular diversity observed among human cancers. Currently, these models are being designed to facilitate in vivo imaging to track both primary and metastatic tumor development from much earlier stages than previously possible. Finally, the approaches developed in this field to achieve basic understanding are emerging as effective tools to guide much needed development of treatment strategies, diagnostic strategies, and patient stratification strategies in clinical research.
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