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  • Writer's pictureJulie Brand

Tasmanian Devils

I’ve just heard a fascinating piece of news about cancer in general, but it may affect all of us in the not too distant future.

Those poor Tassy Devils suffered from a hideous cancerous facial tumour which was discovered in 1996. It became a virus. One little beast infected all in its nest and they infected all their friends and the next thing, scientists were freaking out that the whole entire species would soon become extinct!

Oh no!

However, those tenacious scientists kept tracking and checking those same animals to study the progress of this vile disease and noticed something remarkable was happening.

When they tracked and checked those little beasts, they noticed that their facial tumours had markedly shrunk or vanished altogether!

What on earth was happening?

Further studies revealed that some part of the DNA of Tasmanian Devils can battle this viral facial cancer and eventually, kill it off!

The ramifications of this whole story are astonishing.

Firstly, that a cancer can evolve to become a virus is extremely alarming.

We have all witnessed how a (Covid) virus can disrupt the entire world, and if this one cancer has evolved to become a virus…look out humans!

Then, the fact that the host animal itself has managed to evolve quickly enough to kill off that cancer, is even more incredible!

I bet the day is not too far away when one of those clever scientists from Peter Mac (or somewhere) works out how this all happens and finds out how humans can do it too!

Imagine that?

I heard this story on “The Science Show” on Radio National 1/5/2024 and here’s the link if you want to hear the original. Thanks Robin Williams and team. It’s a 7-minute listen.




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