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Anti-cancer drugs for transmissible cancers in Tasmanian devils

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Tasmanian devils are the world’s largest carnivorous marsupials and endemic to the Australian island state of Tasmania. Over the past two decades, the species has been undergoing a substantial population decline – leading to its categorisation as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List in 2008. This is due to puzzling outbreaks of at least two independent Devil Facial Tumour diseases (DFTs), clonal lineages of transmissible cancer cells that “metastasise” between devils across the island. At this Wolfson College Science Society meeting, Max will discuss ongoing research efforts to characterise the genetics of Tasmanian devils and their malignant DFT cell counterparts. His recent in vitro chemotherapeutic drug screens have revealed key vulnerabilities of both transmissible cancer lineages and may help us in guiding future conservation efforts to preserve this iconic species.

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