Nearly a decade ago, cancer researcher Zheng Cui discovered a mouse that wouldn't get cancer, despite being injected with large doses of what should have been lethal cancer cells.
He then bred a colony of the mice, and eventually identified the immune cells in their blood that seek out and destroy tumor cells.
His team at Wake Forest University used the cells to cure tumors in other mice. Their results led to calls to develop similar transfusions for people.
"Most people could really care less about the cancer problem in mice. They all want to know about what's the implication in humans," said cancer researcher Dr. Zheng Cui.
Then researchers developed a test to identify cancer killing cells, not in the blood of mice, but the blood of humans. They're still trying to decode the basic genetics of this cancer-killing ability.
But in the meantime, the research team has been given federal approval, for studies to see if whether those cells collected from healthy people can benefit people with cancer.
"If we can identify cancer-resistant humans, why not just do the same thing as we did in the mice, without even knowing the mechanism and find out whether it will work or not?" said Cui.
Dr. Cui points out that cell donation treatments are already routine in medicine. What's different about this study is that donors will be selected by testing their cell's anti-cancer activity.
The research team is headquartered at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. It has already begun recruiting both healthy cell donors and patients for the clinical trial.