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Dogs Carry The World’s Oldest Cancer

Update Date: Jan 27, 2014 08:31 AM EST

A form of contagious genital cancer to which only dogs fall victim to have been traced around 10,000 years back, according to a new research. 

Canine transmissible venereal tumor (CTVT) is one of the two known contagious cancers. CTVT is also the oldest and most widely spread cancer. 

According to researchers, the disease may have arose in Alaskan malamute or husky-type dog about 11,000 years ago.

"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", Elizabeth Murchison, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge, said in a press release.

Researchers were interested in knowing the cause that enabled cancer to last so long. Researchers investigated "how the disease managed to escape the original host and then each subsequent host thereafter". They concluded that the cancer might have survived by the transfer of its cancer cells to subsequent dogs during mating. 

One of the most common disease found in dogs around the world is the transmissible dog cancer. 

"The patterns of genetic variants in tumors from different continents suggested that the cancer existed in one isolated population of dogs for most of its history,"Murchison added. "It spread around the world within the last 500 years, possibly carried by dogs accompanying seafarers on their global explorations during the dawn of the age of exploration."

Researchers also used genome sequencing to develop a better understanding of how the disease spread. They also noted that apart from dog transmissible disease the other known naturally occurring transmissible cancer was an aggressive facial cancer in Tasmanian devils that is spread by simply biting. 

The research has been published in the journal Science

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