University Of Tasmania
134289 - Two of a kind.pdf (3.23 MB)

Two of a kind: transmissible Schwann cell cancers in the endangered Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 06:07 authored by Amanda PatchettAmanda Patchett, Coorens, THH, Jocelyn DarbyJocelyn Darby, Richard WilsonRichard Wilson, McKay, MJ, Kamath, KS, Rubin, A, Wakefield, M, Mcintosh, L, Mangiola, S, Ruth PyeRuth Pye, Andrew FliesAndrew Flies, Corcoran, LM, Alan LyonsAlan Lyons, Gregory WoodsGregory Woods, Murchison, EP, Papenfuss, AT, Cesar Tovar LopezCesar Tovar Lopez
Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) comprises two genetically distinct transmissible cancers (DFT1 and DFT2) endangering the survival of the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) in the wild. DFT1 first arose from a cell of the Schwann cell lineage; however, the tissue-of-origin of the recently discovered DFT2 cancer is unknown. In this study, we compared the transcriptome and proteome of DFT2 tumours to DFT1 and normal Tasmanian devil tissues to determine the tissue-of-origin of the DFT2 cancer. Our findings demonstrate that DFT2 expresses a range of Schwann cell markers and exhibits expression patterns consistent with a similar origin to the DFT1 cancer. Furthermore, DFT2 cells express genes associated with the repair response to peripheral nerve damage. These findings suggest that devils may be predisposed to transmissible cancers of Schwann cell origin. The combined effect of factors such as frequent nerve damage from biting, Schwann cell plasticity and low genetic diversity may allow these cancers to develop on rare occasions. The emergence of two independent transmissible cancers from the same tissue in the Tasmanian devil presents an unprecedented opportunity to gain insight into cancer development, evolution and immune evasion in mammalian species.


Publication title

Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences








Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Birkhauser Verlag Ag

Place of publication

Viadukstrasse 40-44, Po Box 133, Basel, Switzerland, Ch-4010

Rights statement

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 This is a post-print of an article first published online on 2/8/19. Post-prints are subject to Springer Nature re-use terms

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Terrestrial biodiversity

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