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    Thread: Transmissible Cancers

    1. #1
      Rational Spiritualist DrunkenArse's Avatar
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      Transmissible Cancers

      Apparently, some cancers are transmissible and can infect another organism of the same species. There are three known forms Devil facial tumour diseas which affects Tasmanian Devils and Canine transmissible venereal tumor which affects canids are the two that I've looked at.

      The canid one is largely benign and is fairly old. The dogs have adapted to it fairly well. It's been known for 100 years but was only recently confirmed to be a transmissible cancer and not a cancer that was caused by a transmissible agent like HPV/cervical cancer.

      The Tasmanian Devil one is interesting though. The females originally bred at the age of two with a small percentage breeding at age one. Since the cancer has arrived (first reported in mid nineties) only females that can breed in their first year live long enough to breed. So now the wild population in the affected range all breed in their first year and die shortly thereafter. Apparently, six females have been found with partial immunity.

      Transmissible cancer is pretty cool. I hope a form doesn't start affecting humans though (well, more to the point, I hope nobody that I care about is affected if it happens).

      Infectious cancer forces Tasmanian Devil lifecycle evolution
      Previously PhilosopherStoned

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      Member nina's Avatar
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      What is the mechanism of transmission if not via virus?

    3. #3
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      From the first link it looks like parasites, and sexual transmission. I guess as long as those cells survive in the environment that it's in (inside the misquote sperm or whatever) it can spread in the new host just like a virus. We've all heard about how how metastastasize, but this is a whole nother level.
      Last edited by Akono; 01-21-2011 at 12:12 AM.

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      Member nina's Avatar
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      Oh ok. I thought it was going to be some crazy new infectious protein etc. thing like prions.

      edit: actually nevermind. I just read this "The tumor cells are themselves the infectious agents, and the tumors that form are not genetically related to the host dog.[1] Although the genome of CTVT is derived from a canid (probably a dog, wolf or coyote), it is now essentially living as a unicellular, asexually reproducing (but sexually transmitted) pathogen."

      It says that it is a parasitic cancer, not that it is transmitted via parasites. But yeah. This is bizarre.
      Last edited by nina; 01-21-2011 at 12:17 AM.

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      I was referring to transmissible cancers in general Nina.

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      Rational Spiritualist DrunkenArse's Avatar
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      To me, the interesting thing about this is that a malfunctioning piece of an organism essentially falls off and takes up residence in a new organism. It's like unicellular organism evolved from a dog.
      Previously PhilosopherStoned

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      Quote Originally Posted by Aquanina View Post
      What is the mechanism of transmission if not via virus?
      Teleporting DNA

      Quote Originally Posted by PhilosopherStoned View Post
      To me, the interesting thing about this is that a malfunctioning piece of an organism essentially falls off and takes up residence in a new organism. It's like unicellular organism evolved from a dog.
      The modern view of cancer is not that it's a malfunctioning piece of organism. Development of a cancer is an evolutionary process, sort of "evolution of defection". It's a natural outcome of conflict of interests that exists between the organism and individual cells. In a way, it is considered a lifeform on its own.

      You can take cancerous tissue of one person and transplant it to any immunodeficient person, and it would infect the host. You can also do this across species, transplanting human tumors to nude (immunodeficient) mice is a typical cancer research methodology.

      And here's the example that gives me the creeps:
      HeLa cells.. It's an immortal cancer cell line taken out of Henrietta Lacks in 1951. and it's been used in thousands of labs around the world. They got so well adapted to laboratory conditions that many labs have problems, as they contaminate other cell cultures (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeLa#Contamination)
      Today, it's considered to be a separate species - Helacyton gartleri
      Last edited by SnakeCharmer; 01-21-2011 at 07:45 AM.
      PhilosopherStoned likes this.

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