Cancer pilfers cell powerhouse

An atypical form of contagious canine cancer may steal its host's mitochondria when its own succumb to DNA damage

Vanessa Schipani
Jan 19, 2011
A form of contagious cancer found in dogs and wolves may steal its host's mitochondria to replace its own failing organelles, possibly aiding its survival despite damage from high mutation rates.The results, published in the January 21st issue of Science, may provide clues for hindering the spread of other similar cancers, such as a disease that threatens the endangered Tasmanian devil.
Border collie (Canis lupus familiaris)
Credit: Vanessa Schipani

"This paper is an important step in advancing our understanding of the biology of this fascinating area of transmissible cancers," said linkurl:Matthew Breen,; professor of genomics at North Carolina State University, who was not involved in the research. Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor (CTVT) is an atypical form of cancer that can be passed between dogs during mating. Normally found on the genitalia, the cancer cells are transferred from one individual to another on contact.Though the high mutation rates typical of cancer...
Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
Credit: Wikimedia commons/KeresH
C.A. Rebbeck et al., "Mitochondrial capture by a transmissible cancer," Science, 331:303, 2011.