Study finds contagious cancers are spreading among several species of shellfish


Left to right:1. Mussels (Mytilus trossulus) at Copper Beach in West Vancouver, Canada 2. Cockles (Cerastoderma edule) collected in the ria of Arousa in Galicia, Spain3. Golden carpet shell clams (Polititapes aureus) collected in the ria of Arousa in Galicia, Spain Credit: 1. Annette F. Muttray; 2. and 3. David Iglesias

The oceans are home to innumerable and diverse species of marine life. A new paper, published in Nature, suggests that the watery medium that nourishes and protects this life may also promote the spread of certain cancers, both within and across species.

The study, performed by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, with collaborators in Canada and Spain, examined a variety of mollusks harboring a form of cancer known as disseminated neoplasia, a leukemia-like disease that affects populations of bivalves in many parts of the world. The team has discovered that in several species, themselves were spreading from animal to animal as a contagious clonal cell line.

“Our results suggest that direct transmission of cancer among may be much more common than once thought,” said senior author, Stephen Goff, PhD, the Higgins Professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Bbiophysics and the Deparment of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University Medical Center….

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