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World's oldest cancers found in dogs and Tasmanian Devils

Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian Devil

Although scientists have found evidence that even dinosaurs suffered from different forms of cancer millions of years ago, the oldest known form known to still exist is a has been affecting canines for the past 11,000 years-old, causing genital tumors. Believed to have originated in ancestors of modern huskies and malamutes, it is also the only form of cancer that can actually be transmitted from one individual to another when the diseased cells are rubbed off during intercourse, and then grow on the other dog.

In fact, researchers led by Elizabeth Murchison, a cancer geneticist at the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom, claim that dogs and Tasmanian devils are “the only two animals that can transmit cancer from one individual to another.”

“I knew about this disease for some time because I'm actually Tasmanian, so I was very familiar with the Tasmanian devil cancer, which is very aggressive and is spread by biting,” she stated. “However, in my studies I learned about this dog cancer and found it fascinating. I was keen to use genetics and genomics to find out more to help us help the devils as well as the dogs.”

She also went on to state that the two cancers are not the same disease, although they are the only two forms now known to be transmittable between two or more hosts. And while the dog cancer can be spread to other canine species, humans can rest assured that they cannot catch it from their pets. Nor can it spread to any other types of animals in their households.