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Curse of the devil: molecular insights into the emergence of transmissible cancers in the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)

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Patchett, AL ORCID: 0000-0002-8424-4680, Flies, AS ORCID: 0000-0002-4550-1859, Lyons, AB ORCID: 0000-0002-8508-5853 and Woods, GM ORCID: 0000-0001-8421-7917 2020 , 'Curse of the devil: molecular insights into the emergence of transmissible cancers in the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)' , Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences , pp. 1-19 , doi: 10.1007/s00018-019-03435-4.

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Abstract

The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is the only mammalian species known to be affected by multiple transmissible cancers. Devil facial tumours 1 and 2 (DFT1 and DFT2) are independent neoplastic cell lineages that produce large, disfiguring cancers known as devil facial tumour disease (DFTD). The long-term persistence of wild Tasmanian devils is threatened due to the ability of DFTD cells to propagate as contagious allografts and the high mortality rate of DFTD. Recent studies have demonstrated that both DFT1 and DFT2 cancers originated from founder cells of the Schwann cell lineage, an uncommon origin of malignant cancer in humans. This unprecedented finding has revealed a potential predisposition of Tasmanian devils to transmissible cancers of the Schwann cell lineage. In this review, we compare the molecular nature of human Schwann cells and nerve sheath tumours with DFT1 and DFT2 to gain insights into the emergence of transmissible cancers in the Tasmanian devil. We discuss a potential mechanism, whereby Schwann cell plasticity and frequent wounding in Tasmanian devils combine with an inherent cancer predisposition and low genetic diversity to give rise to transmissible Schwann cell cancers in devils on rare occasions.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Patchett, AL and Flies, AS and Lyons, AB and Woods, GM
Keywords: Tasmanian devil, devil facial tumour disease, transmissible cancer, schwann cell, nerve sheath tumour, tumour microenvironment
Journal or Publication Title: Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Publisher: Birkhauser Verlag Ag
ISSN: 1420-682X
DOI / ID Number: 10.1007/s00018-019-03435-4
Copyright Information:

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

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