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This article is part of the supplement: 2006 International Meeting of The Institute of Human Virology

Open Access Open Badges Oral presentation

A sexually transmitted parasitic cancer

Robin A Weiss*, Ariberto Fassati and Claudio Murgia

  • * Corresponding author: Robin A Weiss

Author Affiliations

Division of Infection and Immunity, University College London, W1T 4JF, UK

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Retrovirology 2006, 3(Suppl 1):S92  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-3-S1-S92

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:21 December 2006

© 2006 Weiss et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Oral presentation

Cancer is not a contagious disease but two exceptions have come to light, in the dog and in the marsupial Tasmanian devil. Canine transmissible venereal tumor (CTVT) is sexually transmitted between dogs and was the first tumor to be experimentally transplanted in 1876. Using forensic DNA markers we have shown [1] that a single malignant clone of CTVT cells has colonized dogs worldwide. Thus the tumor has evolved into an independent parasite, which has long outlived its original host, possibly a wolf. CTVT represents the oldest known malignant cell in continuous propagation, and challenges the concept of increasing genome instability in cancer progression. As an allograft, CTVT defies natural transplantation barriers. Can human tumor cells similarly be transmitted from one person to another?


  1. Murgia C, Pritchard JK, Kim SY, Fassati A, Weiss RA: Clonal origin and evolution of a transmissible cancer.

    Cell 2006, 126:477-487. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL