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A shaggy dog story: The contagious cancer that conquered the world

last modified Jun 16, 2016 04:20 PM
A contagious form of cancer that can spread between dogs during mating has highlighted the extent to which dogs accompanied human travellers throughout our seafaring history. But the tumours also provide surprising insights into how cancers evolve by ‘stealing’ DNA from their host.

‘Canine transmissible venereal tumour’ (CTVT) is a cancer that spreads between dogs through the transfer of living cancer cells, primarily during mating. The disease usually manifests as genital tumours in both male and female domestic dogs. The cancer first arose approximately 11,000 years ago from the cells of one individual dog; remarkably, it survived beyond the death of this original dog by spreading to new dogs. The cancer is now found in dog populations worldwide, and is the oldest and most prolific cancer lineage known in nature. Read more..