Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Contagious cancer thrives in dogs by adopting host's genes

Date:
January 23, 2011
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
A curious contagious cancer, found in dogs, wolves and coyotes, can repair its own genetic mutations by adopting genes from its host animal, according to a new study.

Black lab mix. An curious contagious cancer, found in dogs, wolves and coyotes, can repair its own genetic mutations by adopting genes from its host animal, according to a new study.
Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan

A curious contagious cancer, found in dogs, wolves and coyotes, can repair its own genetic mutations by adopting genes from its host animal, according to a new study in the journal Science.

Related Articles


Scientists at Imperial College London have uncovered an unusual process that helps the cancer survive by stealing tiny DNA-containing 'powerhouses' (known as mitochondria) from the cells of the infected animal, to incorporate as its own. They say this may be because genes in the tumour's own mitochondria have a tendency to mutate and degenerate. The results are surprising because mitochondria and their genes are usually only passed from a mother to her offspring.

The findings may have broad implications for halting the spread of similar diseases in other animals and for understanding cancer progression across species. Mitochondrial transfer between genetically distinct cells has previously been observed in the laboratory, but this is the first time it has been demonstrated to occur in nature.

Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumour or CTVT is a very unusual form of cancer that is typically transmitted by mating, though it can also be spread by licking, biting or sniffing tumour-affected areas. The cancer cells themselves move directly from dog to dog, acting like a parasite on each infected animal. Found in most canine breeds throughout the world, the scientists think CTVT is very similar to the transmissible but more fatal cancer seen in the endangered Tasmanian devils of Australia.

Dr Clare Rebbeck, formerly a PhD student on the project at Imperial College London, now working at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the USA, originally set out to explore how the cancers found in different parts of the world were related to one another, using computer analysis of DNA samples. However, her analysis showed that the pattern of relationships for the mitochondrial genes was different to that of the nuclear DNA. In cases the cancers were even more closely related to some dogs than to other some cancers. This finding indicated that the cancers sometimes acquired mitochondria from their hosts.

Professor Austin Burt from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, who led the research, said: "Our study has revealed that this type of cancer works in a really unexpected way. It raises some really important questions about the progression of other cancers, such as how they repair their own DNA."

The researchers believe that the cancer does not take up new mitochondria with every new host, rather that this functions as an occasional repair mechanism to replace faulty mitochondria. A naturally high rate of genetic mutation in cancers regularly leads to non-functional genes in the CTVT mitochondria, which causes them to lose productivity.

In an earlier study, Imperial's scientists estimated that the earliest CTVT tumour originated from an ancient dog or wolf approximately 10,000 years ago, perhaps when dogs were first domesticated through intensive inbreeding of the more social wolves. These new results suggest that over this time, the cancer must have evolved the unusual ability to capture mitochondria from its host animal.

The scientists hope their work can be built upon by medical researchers to advance our knowledge of cancer progression in humans and other animal species.

This work has been supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre, part of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Clare A. Rebbeck, Armand M. Leroi and Austin Burt. Mitochondrial Capture by a Transmissible Cancer. Science, 21 January 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6015 p. 303 DOI: 10.1126/science.1197696

Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "Contagious cancer thrives in dogs by adopting host's genes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110120141830.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2011, January 23). Contagious cancer thrives in dogs by adopting host's genes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110120141830.htm
Imperial College London. "Contagious cancer thrives in dogs by adopting host's genes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110120141830.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Malnutrition on the Rise as Violence Flares in C. Africa

Malnutrition on the Rise as Violence Flares in C. Africa

AFP (Jan. 28, 2015) Violence can flare up at any moment in Bambari with only a bridge separating Muslims and Christians. Malnutrition is on the rise and lack of water means simple cooking fires threaten to destroy makeshift camps where people are living. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Poultry Culled in Taiwan to Thwart Bird Flu

Poultry Culled in Taiwan to Thwart Bird Flu

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 28, 2015) Taiwan culls over a million poultry in efforts to halt various strains of avian flu. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Media Criticizing Parents For Not Vaccinating Children

Media Criticizing Parents For Not Vaccinating Children

Newsy (Jan. 28, 2015) As the Disneyland measles outbreak continues to spread, the media says parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are part of the cause. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

AP (Jan. 27, 2015) A Texas woman who lost more than five pounds of flesh to a shark in the Bahamas earlier this month could be released from a Florida hospital soon. Experts believe she was bitten by a bull shark while snorkeling. (Jan. 27) Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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