My name is Freddy Tadros and I am a junior Biology major and Chemistry minor. I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to take a class in undergrad solely dedicated to cancer. I hope that this class will give me better perspective on my aspiration to become an oncologist because I find all aspects of cancer fascinating: the cellular mechanisms, physiology, biochemistry, genetics, and epidemiology, all of it.
For my first post I thought I would write about a strange incidence of cancer that I recently heard about on the radio that I found fascinating. Unfortunately, "Taz,"one of my favorite cartoon characters, and his people, are threatened by an odd cancer epidemic that has caused the tasmanian devil to become an endangered species. The decline in the devil population has been seen for decades but only in the last ten years have scientists begun to understand the cause. In 2006, a paper published in Nature showed that the chromosomes from these cancer cells found were all genetically identical, meaning that they all have a one unique ancestor and therefore must have originated outside of each ill individual (Pearse 2006). This form of cancer that is endangering the Australian devil population is known as devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) and is thereby actually infectious. Due to high inbreeding among this island species, if a viable tumor cell from an infected individual were to physically invade another individual it can survive and proliferate (similar to a parasite/host relationship) in the same manner because of this lack of genetic diversity. DFTD is one of only two observed clonally transmissible cancers observed among mammals, however, it just so happens that cases of cancer infection have occurred in humans when organ transplants come into play (Murchison 2009).