Tasmanian Devils Cured of Deadly Transmissible Cancer (DFTD) in Immunotherapy Trial

An international study involving multiple institutions over six years has shown that immunotherapy can cure Tasmanian devils of the deadly devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil_facial_tumour_disease), one of only two known naturally occurring transmissible cancers (the other being canine transmissible venereal tumor) (http://www.nature.com/onc/journal/v27/n2s/abs/onc2009350a.html). The new research was published in Scientific Reports. The open-access article is titled “Regression of Devil Facial Tumour Disease Following Immunotherapy in Immunised Tasmanian Devils.” The research was led by researchers from the University of Tasmania's Menzies Institute for Medical Research with input from scientists from the School of Medicine. It also involved researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, CSL Ltd, and the Universities of Sydney, Southampton, Southern Denmark, and Cambridge. Professor Greg Woods, the leader of the DFTD team at Menzies, said scientists used immunotherapy on devils with golf-ball sized tumors and then observed the tumors gradually shrinking and disappearing over three months. "This is almost a Eureka moment for us because it's the first time we can say for sure that it was the immunotherapy that was making the tumor shrink," Professor Woods said. Building a good understanding of the devil's immune system, which goes hand in hand with the development of a vaccine, involves years of painstaking laboratory work. The process is incremental, but with each step, scientists are closing in on the disease. This breakthrough is the next step on from work published in 2015 that showed that the devil's immune system is capable of mounting an immune response to DFTD.
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