Dog cancer dates back 11,000 years - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Dog cancer dates back 11,000 years

Updated: Jan 25, 2014 09:03 AM
© iStockphoto.com / Leigh Schindle © iStockphoto.com / Leigh Schindle
  • What's Going AroundMore>>

  • What's Going Around - April 16th

    What's Going Around - April 16th

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 11:16 AM EDT2014-04-16 15:16:33 GMT
    Sinus infections are going around this week. Nurse Practitioner Christy Johnson from Bay Medical-Sacred Heart Family Medicine says, "A sinus infection is inflammation or swelling of your sinuses. WhenMore >>
    A sinus infection can make a person feel miserable. More >>
  • What's Going Around - April 2nd

    What's Going Around - April 2nd

    Wednesday, April 2 2014 11:29 AM EDT2014-04-02 15:29:17 GMT
    It's allergy season, and a lot of patients are struggling right now. Dr. Brian Shaheen from Bay Medical-Sacred Heart Family Medicine says symptoms of allergies include: Congestion Clear nasal dischargeMore >>
    The first signs of pollen also signal the start of allergy season. More >>

Scientists who sequenced the genome of the world's oldest cancer say their findings reveal the origin and evolution of the disease.

The transmissible genital cancer affects dogs, and it first appeared in a single dog that lived about 11,000 years ago. The cancer survived the death of that first host because the dog transferred cancer cells to other dogs during mating, according to the researchers.

The genome of this cancer -- which causes genital tumors on dogs around the world -- has about 2 million mutations. That's many more than are found in most human cancers, which typically have between 1,000 and 5,000 mutations.

"The genome of this remarkable long-lived cancer has demonstrated that, given the right conditions, cancers can continue to survive for more than 10,000 years despite the accumulation of millions of mutations," study author Dr. Elizabeth Murchison, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge in England, said in an institute news release.

The researchers also discovered that the genome of this cancer still contained genetic variants of the first dog to have the cancer. The dog likely had a short, straight coat and was either grey/brown or black. It may have resembled an Alaskan Malamute or Husky. It's not known if the dog was a male or female, but it was relatively inbred.

"We do not know why this particular individual [dog] gave rise to a transmissible cancer," Murchison said. "But it is fascinating to look back in time and reconstruct the identity of this ancient dog whose genome is still alive today in the cells of the cancer that it spawned."

According to study senior author Sir Mike Stratton, director of the Sanger Institute, "the genome of the transmissible dog cancer will help us to understand the processes that allow cancers to become transmissible."

He explained in the news release that "although transmissible cancers are very rare, we should be prepared in case such a disease emerged in humans or other animals. Furthermore, studying the evolution of this ancient cancer can help us to understand factors driving cancer evolution more generally."

More information

The Morris Animal Foundation has more about dogs and cancer.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.