Transmissible Tumors: Breaking the Cancer Paradigm. Academic Article uri icon


  • Transmissible tumors are those that have transcended the bounds of their incipient hosts by evolving the ability to infect another individual through direct transfer of cancer cells, thus becoming parasitic cancer clones. Coitus, biting, and scratching are transfer mechanisms for the two primary species studied, the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) and the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii). Canine transmissible venereal tumors (CTVT) are likely thousands of years old, and have successfully travelled from host to host around the world, while the Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) is much younger and geographically localized. The dog tumor is not necessarily lethal, while the devil tumor has driven the population to near extinction. Transmissible tumors are uniform in that they have complex immunologic profiles, which allow them to escape immune detection by their hosts, sometimes for long periods of time. In this review, we explore how transmissible tumors in CTVT, DFTD, and as well as the soft-shell clam and Syrian hamster, can advance studies of tumor biology.

published proceedings

  • Trends Genet

altmetric score

  • 30.95

author list (cited authors)

  • Ostrander, E. A., Davis, B. W., & Ostrander, G. K.

citation count

  • 56

complete list of authors

  • Ostrander, Elaine A||Davis, Brian W||Ostrander, Gary K

publication date

  • January 2016