Prospects & Overviews
Contagious cancer: Lessons from the devil and the dog
Article first published online: 2 MAR 2012
Copyright © 2012 WILEY Periodicals, Inc.
Volume 34, Issue 4, pages 285–292, April 2012
How to Cite
Belov, K. (2012), Contagious cancer: Lessons from the devil and the dog. Bioessays, 34: 285–292. doi: 10.1002/bies.201100161
- Issue published online: 13 MAR 2012
- Article first published online: 2 MAR 2012
- canine transmissible venereal tumour;
- contagious cancer;
- Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease
Cancer is generally defined as uncontrollable growth of cells caused by genetic aberrations and/or environmental factors. Yet contagious cancers also occur. The recent emergence of a contagious cancer in Tasmanian devils has reignited interest in transmissible cancers. Two naturally occurring transmissible cancers are known: devil facial tumour disease and canine transmissible venereal tumour. Both cancers evolved once and have then been transmitted from one individual to another as clonal cell lines. The dog cancer is ancient; having evolved more than 6,000 years ago, while the devil disease was first seen in 1996. In this review I will compare and contrast the two diseases focusing on the life histories of the clonal cell lines, their evolutionary trajectories and the mechanisms by which they have achieved immune tolerance. A greater understanding of these contagious cancers will provide unique insights into the role of the immune system in shaping tumour evolution and may uncover novel approaches for treating human cancer.