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Combating Cancer with Genetic Research at Texas State

Research with a unique tropical fish is shining new light in the fight against cancer at Texas State University’s Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center (XGSC), a rare biomedical science resource.

The genus of fish — Xiphophorus — has been used in cancer research for more than 80 years, ever since researchers discovered that some hybrid species produce fish that develop melanoma tumors virtually identical to skin cancer in humans.

The XGSC provides data and specimens to more than 30 research labs around the world. It has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health as a national research resource since moving to Texas State in 1992.


Fish used for cancer research

Ronald Walter, professor and university chair of Cancer Research at Texas State and XGSC director, says recent research has shown specific wavelengths of light can activate specific genes and pathways in the fish that may actually protect the animal against developing cancer.

“If the effect can be replicated in humans, one day you might sit under special light wavelengths to protect your skin from the harmful effects of direct sun exposure,” Walter says.

The discovery could potentially lead to new cancer treatments tailored to your genetic profile, more personalized cancer screenings or other preventative measures. Researchers around the world rely on data and specimens from the XGSC to support cancer research and the broader fields of genetics and biochemistry.

“As we begin to discover thousands of new variants associated with human disease it highlights the crucial importance of maintaining stock centers to support these efforts,” says Wes Warren, assistant director of the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine.


Key Stats:

From Texas State University’s Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center (XGSC):

  • Home to 27 unique species of Xiphophorus.
  • More than 3 international scientific labs depend on XGSC data and specimens. 
  • $38 million in research funding awarded to XGSC-based programs.