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Natural Antibodies Could Combat Tasmanian Devil Cancer

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Natural antibodies found in the immune system of Tasmanian devils could be harnessed to stop Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).

“We know from human and animal studies that certain natural antibodies are able to recognise and kill cancerous cells, so we wanted to see whether the presence of these molecules would also determine tumour development in Tasmanian devils,” said Dr Beata Ujvari of Deakin University’s Centre for Integrative Ecology.

The research, published in Nature Scientific Reports (, examined levels of immunoglobulin-M and immunoglobulin-G in Tasmanian devils with and without DFTD. While levels of these immunoglobulins had no bearing on the disease, devils with greater IgM:IgG ratios were significantly less likely to have DFTD. “We can deduce then that devils with higher natural antibody ratio are therefore less susceptible to the contagious cancer,” Ujvari said.

The results could potentially halt the spread of disease that has devastated the Tasmanian devil population since its first sighting in 1996, hopefully enabling new vaccine and treatment options.

“Anti-tumour vaccines that enhance the production of these natural antibodies, or direct treatment of the cancer with natural antibodies, could become a solution to help halt this...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.