Clonally transmissible cancer

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A transmissible cancer is a cancer cell or cluster of cancer cells that can be transferred between individuals without the involvement of an infectious agent, such as an oncovirus.[1][2] Transmission of cancer between humans is rare.[2]

Contagious cancers occur in dogs, Tasmanian devils, Syrian hamsters, and some marine bivalves including soft-shell clams. These cancers have a relatively stable genome as they are transmitted.[3]

In humans, a significant fraction of Kaposi's sarcoma occurring after transplantation may be due to tumorous outgrowth of donor cells.[4] Although Kaposi's sarcoma is caused by a virus (Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus), in these cases, it appears likely that transmission of virus-infected tumor cells—rather than the free virus—caused tumors in the transplant recipients.[2]

Notable cases[edit]

  • A case of parasite-to-host cancer transmission occurred in a 41-year-old man in Colombia with a compromised immune system due to HIV. The man's tumor cells were shown to have originated from the dwarf tapeworm, Hymenolepis nana.[5]
  • A malignant fibrous histiocytoma was contracted from a patient by a surgeon when he injured his hand during an operation.[6]

Other animals[edit]

Animals that have undergone population bottlenecks may be at greater risks of contracting transmissible cancers.[7] Because of their transmission, it was initially thought that these diseases were caused by the transfer of oncoviruses, in the manner of cervical cancer caused by HPV.[2]


  1. ^ Ostrander, Elaine A.; Davis, Brian W.; Ostrander, Gary K. (January 2016). "Transmissible Tumors: Breaking the Cancer Paradigm". Trends in genetics: TIG. 32 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1016/j.tig.2015.10.001. ISSN 0168-9525. PMC 4698198Freely accessible. PMID 26686413. 
  2. ^ a b c d Welsh, James S. (2011). "Contagious cancer". The Oncologist. 16 (1): 1–4. doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2010-0301. PMC 3228048Freely accessible. PMID 21212437. 
  3. ^ Weiss, Robin A.; Fassati, Ariberto; Murgia, Claudio (21 December 2006). "A sexually transmitted parasitic cancer". Retrovirology. 3 (Supplement 1): S92. doi:10.1186/1742-4690-3-S1-S92. 
  4. ^ Barozzi, Patrizia; Luppi, Mario; Facchetti, Fabio; Mecucci, Cristina; Alù, Milena; Sarid, Ronit; Rasini, Valeria; Ravazzini, Luisa; Rossi, Elisa; Festa, Silvana; Crescenzi, Barbara; Wolf, Dana G.; Schulz, Thomas F.; Torelli, Giuseppe (2003). "Post-transplant Kaposi sarcoma originates from the seeding of donor-derived progenitors". Nature Medicine. 9 (5): 554–561. doi:10.1038/nm862. PMID 12692543. 
  5. ^ Muehlenbachs, Atis; Bhatnagar, Julu; Agudelo, Carlos A.; Hidron, Alicia; Eberhard, Mark L.; Mathison, Blaine A.; Frace, Michael A.; Ito, Akira; Metcalfe, Maureen G. (2015-11-05). "Malignant Transformation of Hymenolepis nana in a Human Host". The New England Journal of Medicine. 373 (19): 1845–1852. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1505892. ISSN 1533-4406. PMID 26535513. 
  6. ^ Gärtner, Hermine-Valeria; Seidl, Christian; Luckenbach, Christine; Schumm, Georg; Seifried, Erhard; Ritter, Horst; Bültmann, Burkhard (1996). "Genetic analysis of a sarcoma accidentally transplanted from a patient to a surgeon". New England Journal of Medicine. 335 (20): 1494–1497. doi:10.1056/NEJM199611143352004. PMID 8890100. Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  7. ^ Belov, Katherine (February 2011). "The role of the Major Histocompatibility Complex in the spread of contagious cancers". Mammalian Genome. 22 (1–2): 83–90. doi:10.1007/s00335-010-9294-2. PMID 20963591. 
  8. ^ Murgia, Claudio; Pritchard, Jonathan K.; Kim, Su Yeon; Fassati, Ariberto; Weiss, Robin A. (11 August 2006). "Clonal origin and evolution of a transmissible cancer". Cell. 126 (3): 477–487. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2006.05.051. PMC 2593932Freely accessible. PMID 16901782. 
  9. ^ Cooper, Herbert L.; MacKay, Carol M.; Banfield, William G. (1964-10-01). "Chromosome Studies of a Contagious Reticulum Cell Sarcoma of the Syrian Hamster". Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 33 (4): 691–706. doi:10.1093/jnci/33.4.691. PMID 14220251. 
  10. ^ Banfield, William G.; Woke, Paul A.; MacKay, Carol M.; Cooper, Herbert L. (28 May 1965). "Mosquito Transmission of a Reticulum Cell Sarcoma of Hamsters". Science. 148 (3674): 1239–1240. doi:10.1126/science.148.3674.1239. PMID 14280009. 
  11. ^ Pearse, Anne-Maree; Swift, K. (2 February 2006). "Allograft theory: Transmission of devil facial-tumour disease". Nature. 439 (7076): 549. doi:10.1038/439549a. PMID 16452970. 
  12. ^ Yong, Ed (April 9, 2015). "Selfish shellfish cells cause contagious clam cancer". National Geographic. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  13. ^ Michael J. Metzger, Carol Reinisch, James Sherry, Stephen P. Goff (2015). "Horizontal transmission of clonal cancer cells causes leukemia in soft-shell clams". Cell. 161: 255–63. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.02.042. PMC 4393529Freely accessible. PMID 25860608. 
  14. ^ Michael J. Metzger, Antonio Villalba, María J. Carballal, David Iglesias, James Sherry, Carol Reinisch, Annette F. Muttray, Susan A. Baldwin, Stephen P. Goff (2016). "Widespread transmission of independent cancer lineages within multiple bivalve species". Nature. 534: 705–9. doi:10.1038/nature18599. PMC 4939143Freely accessible. PMID 27338791. 

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