A sexually transmitted parasitic cancer

  • Robin A Weiss1,

    Affiliated with

    • Ariberto Fassati1 and

      Affiliated with

      • Claudio Murgia1

        Affiliated with

        Retrovirology20063(Suppl 1):S92

        DOI: 10.1186/1742-4690-3-S1-S92

        Published: 21 December 2006


        Cancer is not a contagious disease but two exceptions have come to light, in the dog and in the marsupial Tasmanian devil. Canine transmissible venereal tumor (CTVT) is sexually transmitted between dogs and was the first tumor to be experimentally transplanted in 1876. Using forensic DNA markers we have shown [1] that a single malignant clone of CTVT cells has colonized dogs worldwide. Thus the tumor has evolved into an independent parasite, which has long outlived its original host, possibly a wolf. CTVT represents the oldest known malignant cell in continuous propagation, and challenges the concept of increasing genome instability in cancer progression. As an allograft, CTVT defies natural transplantation barriers. Can human tumor cells similarly be transmitted from one person to another?

        Authors’ Affiliations

        Division of Infection and Immunity, University College London


        1. Murgia C, Pritchard JK, Kim SY, Fassati A, Weiss RA: Clonal origin and evolution of a transmissible cancer. Cell 2006, 126: 477–487.View ArticlePubMed


        © Weiss 2006

        This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd.