Tasmanian devil cancers targeted by human drugs

From BBC - April 9, 2018

Cancers threatening to decimate the Tasmanian devil population could be halted by using drugs developed for human cancers, researchers have found.

Two transmissible cancers affect the endangered carnivorous marsupial found in the wild only in Tasmania.

Tumours usually spread when the animals bite each others' faces during fights.

However, Cambridge University scientists found drugs targeting receptors in humans could stop cancer in devils under laboratory conditions.

Two transmissible strains of the disease, which cause disfiguring facial tumours, have spread among the marsupials and led to a significant decline in populations in their namesake Australian island state.

One strain, which was first noted in one animal in 1996, has spread throughout the "Tassie devil" population, while a second - first documented in 2014 - is confined to the south east of the island.

However, while both strains are biologically different, visibly they are similar and are thought to be passed between devils through the transfer of living cancer cells when they bite each other.


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