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Immunology of a transmissible cancer spreading among Tasmanian devils


Woods, GM and Howson, LJ and Brown, GK and Tovar, C and Kreiss, A and Corcoran, LM and Lyons, AB, Immunology of a transmissible cancer spreading among Tasmanian devils, Journal of Immunology, 195, (1) pp. 23-29. ISSN 0022-1767 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2015 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.

DOI: doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1500131


Devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) is a transmissible cancer that has killed most of the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrissii) population. Since the first case appeared in the mid-1990s, it has spread relentlessly across the Tasmanian devil's geographic range. As Tasmanian devils only exist in Tasmania, Australia, DFTD has the potential to cause extinction of this species. The origin of DFTD was a Schwann cell from a female devil. The disease is transmitted when devils bite each other around the facial areas, a behavior synonymous with this species. Every devil that is 'infected' with DFTD dies from the cancer. Once the DFTD cells have been transmitted, they appear to develop into a cancer without inducing an immune response. The DFTD cancer cells avoid allogeneic recognition because they do not express MHC class I molecules on the cell surface. A reduced genetic diversity and the production of immunosuppressive cytokines may also contribute.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biomedical and Clinical Sciences
Research Group:Immunology
Research Field:Cellular immunology
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Clinical health
Objective Field:Clinical health not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Woods, GM (Professor Gregory Woods)
UTAS Author:Howson, LJ (Miss Lauren Howson)
UTAS Author:Brown, GK (Ms Gabriella Brown)
UTAS Author:Tovar, C (Dr Cesar Tovar Lopez)
UTAS Author:Kreiss, A (Dr Alexandre Kreiss)
UTAS Author:Lyons, AB (Associate Professor Bruce Lyons)
ID Code:101975
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:16
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2015-07-21
Last Modified:2017-11-07

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