Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Contagious Cancer In Dogs Confirmed; Origins Traced To Wolves Centuries Ago

Date:
August 11, 2006
Source:
University College London
Summary:
The source of a cancer that affects dogs around the world has been traced by scientists and vets at UCL (University College London) to a single wolf or dog, which probably lived in China or Siberia more than 250 years ago. In canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT), the cells of the tumour itself are transmitted between dogs during sex. No equivalent form of contagious cancer exists in humans, but the new findings challenge current thinking about the nature of cancer.

Siberian Husky. (Copyright John Pozniak / released under the GFDL / courtesy of Wikipedia)

A type of cancer that affects dogs throughout the world is in fact a sexually transmitted disease that originated from a single source, according to research by a UCL team published in the journal Cell.

Canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT) is unique because the cells of the tumour itself are transmitted during sex. Dr Claudio Murgia, UCL Immunology & Molecular Pathology, studied tumours taken from 16 dogs in Italy, India and Kenya. He found that the DNA of the tumours was not the same as the DNA of the dogs – in other words, the tumours had come from outside the dogs’ bodies. A further analysis of 40 tumours archived in vet labs in five continents showed that the tumours were genetically almost identical and demonstrated that CTVT originally came from a single source.

Comparison of the tumour DNA with that of different dog breeds, conducted with geneticists and computer experts in Chicago, showed that the culprit is likely to have been a wolf or ‘old’ Asian dog breed from China or Siberia, such as a Husky or Shih Tzu. By counting the mutations in the DNA, the team also concluded that the dog lived between 250 and 1000 years ago.

CTVT is a serious but seldom fatal disease. Unless the dogs are already in poor condition, the tumours usually regress three to nine months after their appearance, leaving the dogs immune to re-infection. But that leaves enough time for the dogs and bitches to pass the tumour on through further sexual encounters. The tumour is rarely seen in pedigree dogs because they are not allowed casual sex, but it is relatively common in strays. It does not occur in the UK, because quarantine regulations (for rabies) effectively screened it out.

No equivalent form of contagious cancer exists in humans. While some human cancers may be considered ‘catchable’ as they are initiated by viruses transmitted between people (such as cervical cancer which is caused by certain types of papilloma virus), in CTVT, no virus is involved.

The new findings challenge current thinking about the nature of cancer. Professor Robin Weiss of the UCL Division of Infection & Immunity, who led the research team, said: “Our discovery is of much broader significance than simply a disease in dogs. Firstly, CTVT represents the longest-lived cancer 'clone' known to science. It contradicts the current view that cancer cells generate more and more mutations and inevitably become more aggressive if untreated.

“Secondly, recent research in Australia has revealed the existence of a newly emerged tumour in Tasmanian Devils that also appears to be caused by transmissible cancer cells, in this case by biting. Devils are an endangered marsupial species and there are fears that the new tumour might finally kill them off altogether. The methods used at UCL for dogs could help to determine whether the Devil tumour is also a 'parasitic' cancer.

“Thirdly, our findings also show that cancer cells can evade immune responses and CTVT is particularly smart in this regard. On rare occasions cancer cells have been transmitted from one human to another by hiding in organ transplants. Because the recipient is treated with immunosuppressants in order to prevent rejection, the transferred cancer cells can then grow into tumours just like CTVT. That is why people who have suffered from cancer should not become organ donors.”

He added: “It appears that man’s best friend can be its own worst enemy. Our study shows that CTVT has become a parasite that has long outlived its original host.”

To find out more, follow the links at the top of this article.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University College London. "Contagious Cancer In Dogs Confirmed; Origins Traced To Wolves Centuries Ago." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060811075902.htm>.
University College London. (2006, August 11). Contagious Cancer In Dogs Confirmed; Origins Traced To Wolves Centuries Ago. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060811075902.htm
University College London. "Contagious Cancer In Dogs Confirmed; Origins Traced To Wolves Centuries Ago." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060811075902.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The New York Times has officially endorsed the legalization of marijuana, but why now, and to what end? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins