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Elizabeth Murchison

Transmissible cancers

The Transmissible Cancer Group at the Department of Veterinary Medicine works on the genetics and evolution of transmissible cancers. There are only three known naturally occurring clonally transmissible cancers and these are the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), the canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT) and the disseminated neoplasia of soft-shell clams. These cancers are transmitted between individuals by the transfer of living cancer cells. DFTD is transmitted between Tasmanian devils by biting and CTVT is spread between dogs during coitus. DFTD is threatening its host, the Tasmanian devil, with extinction. We use genetics, genomics and molecular biology to understand the origins, evolution and disease dynamics of the DFTD and CTVT clones. We also study genetic factors influencing host susceptibility, disease pathogenesis and treatment responses. We aim to understand how DFTD and CTVT have emerged and adapted to their hosts with the goal of developing DFTD and CTVT treatment options and using transmissible cancers to gain general insights into cancer evolution.

Key Publications

  • Baez-Ortega A, Gori K*, Strakova A*, Airikkala-Otter I, Allen JL, Allum KM, Bansse-Issa L, Bhutia TN, Bisson JL, Briceño C, Castillo Domracheva A, Corrigan AM, Hugh R. Cran HR, Crawford JT, Davis E, de Castro KF, De Nardi AB, de Vos AP, Delgadillo Keenan L, Donelan EM, Espinoza Huerta AR, Faramade IA, Fazil F, Fotopoulou E, Fruean SN, Gallardo-Arrieta F, Glebova O, Gouletsou PG, Häfelin Manrique RF, Henriques JJGP, Horta RS, Ignatenko N, Kane Y, King C, Koenig D, Krupa A, Kruzeniski SJ, Kwon YM, Lanza-Perea, Lazyan M, Lopez Quintana AM, Losfelt T, Marino G, Martínez Castañeda S, Martínez-López MF, Masuruli BM, Meyer M, Migneco EJ, Nakanwagi BN, Neal K, Neunzig W, Ní Leathlobhair M, Nixon SJ, Onsare MM, Ortega-Pacheco A, Pedraza-Ordoñez F, Peleteiro MC, Polak K, Pye RJ, Reece JF, Rojas Gutierrez J, Sadia H, Schmeling SK, Shamanova O, Sherlock AG, Stammnitz M, Steenland-Smit AE, Svitich A, Swarisch I, Tapia Martínez LJ, Thoya Ngoka IT, Torres CG, Tudor EM, van der Wel MG, Vițălaru BA, Vural SA, Walkinton W, Wang J, Wehrle-Martinez AS, Widdowson SAE, Stratton MR, Alexandrov LB, Martincorena I, Murchison EP. 2019. Somatic evolution and global expansion of an ancient transmissible cancer lineage. Science. Aug 2; 365(6452)
  • Patchett AL, Coorens THH, Darby J, Wilson R, McKay MJ, Kamath KS, Rubin A, Wakefield M, Mcintosh L, Mangiola S, Pye RJ, Flies AS, Corcoran LM, Lyons AB, Woods GM, Murchison EP, Papenfuss AT, Tovar C. 2019. Two of a kind: transmissible Schwann cell cancers in the endangered Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii). Cell Mol Life Sci. Aug 2 doi: 10.1007/s00018-019-03259-2
  • James S, Jennings G, Kwon YM, Stammnitz M, Fraik A, Storfer A, Comte S, Pemberton D, Fox S, Brown B, Pye R, Woods G, Lyons B, Hohenlohe P, McCallum H, Siddle S, Thomas F, Ujvari B, Murchison EP, Jones M, Hamede R. 2019. Tracing the rise of malignant cell lines: Distribution, epidemiology and evolution of two transmissible cancers in Tasmanian devils. Evolutionary Applications. 14 June.
  • Wong K, van der Weyden L, Schott CR, Foote A, Constantino-Casas F, Smith S, Dobson JM, Murchison EP, Wu H, Yeh I, Fullen DR, Joseph N, Bastian BC, Patel RM, Martincorena I, Robles-Espinoza CD, Iyer V, Kuijjer ML, Arends MJ, Brenn T, Harms PW, Wood GA, Adams DJ. 2019. Cross-species genomic landscape comparison of human mucosal melanoma with canine oral and equine melanoma. Nat Commun. Jan 21;10(1):353. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-08081-1.
  • Kosack L, Wingelhofer B, Popa A, Vilagos B, Majek P, Parapatics K, Lercher A, Agerer B, Ringler A, Klughammer J, Smyth M, Khamina K, Rosa DA, Park J, Gunning PT, Bock C, Kubicek S, Murchison EP, Bennett KL, Moriggl R, Bergthaler A 2018 ERBB-STAT3 axis drives Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease. Cancer Cell. Jan 14;35(1):125-139.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2018.11.018
  • Ní Leathlobhair M, Perri AR, Irving-Pease EK, Witt KE, Linderholm A, Haile J,, Lebrasseur O, Ameen C, Blick J, Boyko AR, Brace S, Nunes Cortes Y, Crockford SJ, Dimopoulos EA, Eldridge M, Gopalakrishnan S, Gori KC, Grimes V, Guiry E, Hansen AJ, Hulme-Beaman A, Johnson J, Kitchen A, Kwon YM, Lope CP, Manin A, Martin T, Meyer M, Myers KN, Omura M, Sciulli P, Sinding MS, Strakova A, Widga C, Willerslev E, Barnes I, Gilbert MTP, Dobney KM, Malhi RS, Murchison EP*, Larson G*, Frantz LAF* 2018 The Evolutionary History of Dogs in the Americas. Science. Jul 6;361(6397):81-85. doi: 10.1126/science.aao4776
  • Kwon YM, Stammnitz MR, Wang J, Swift K, Knowles GW, Pye RJ, Kreiss A, Peck S, Fox S, Pemberton D, Jones ME, Hamede R, Murchison EP 2018 Tasman-PCR: A genetic diagnostic assay for Tasmanian devil facial tumour diseases. Royal Soc Open Sci. Oct 3, doi:10.1098/rsos.180870 (10 pages)
  • Caldwell A, Coleby R, Tovar C, Stammnitz MR, Mi Kwon YM, Tringides M, Murchison EP, Skjødt K, Thomas GJ, Kaufman J, Elliott T, Woods G, Siddle HV 2018 The newly-arisen Devil facial tumour disease 2 (DFT2) reveals a mechanism for the emergence of a contagious cancer. eLife. pii: e35314. doi: 10.7554/eLife.35314 (18 pages)
  • Stammnitz MR, Coorens THH, Gori KC, Hayes D, Fu B, Wang J, Martin-Herranz DE, Alexandrov LB, Baez-Ortega A, Barthorpe S, Beck A, Giordano F, Knowles GW, Kwon YM, Hall G, Price S, Pye RJ, Tubio JMC, V.T. Siddle HVT, Sohal, SS, Woods GM, McDermott U, Yang F, Garnett MJ, Ning Z, Murchison EP 2018 The origins and vulnerabilities of two transmissible cancers in Tasmanian devils. Cancer Cell. 33:607-61
  • Giordano F, Stammnitz MR, Murchison EP, Ning Z 2018 ScanPAV: A pipeline for extracting presence-absence variations in genome pairs. Bioinformatics. 1-3: 28 March 2018

For more publications, visit the Transmissible Cancer Group website. 

 

Professor Elizabeth Murchison

Professor of Comparative Oncology and Genetics

epm27@cam.ac.uk

Group members: Andrea Strakova, Maire Lawlor, Maximilian Stammnitz, Young Mi Kwon, Adrian Baez-Ortega, Tracy Wang, Isobelle Bolton

Transmissible Cancer Group website

    Plain English

    We work on the genetics and evolution of transmissible cancers; these are cancers that can be transmitted between individuals by the transfer of living cancer cells.

    Funding

    Wellcome Trust
    Leverhulme Trust
    Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal
    National Science Foundation

    Elizabeth Murchison is currently accepting PhD student applications