Cookie use on MRCVSonline
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.
If you would like to forward this story on to a friend, simply fill in the form below and click send.

Your friend's email:
Your email:
Your name:
 
 
Send Cancel

Researchers study potential cancer suppression in cetaceans
Researchers sequenced and assembled the genome of a humpback whale.
Findings could help find new treatments for human cancers 

A study of potential cancer suppression in cetaceans could help researchers discover new targets for preventing cancer in humans.

The research, published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, pulled apart the genome of a humpback whale, along with nine other cetaceans, to reveal how their cancer defences are so effective.

Study leader Professor Marc Tollis from Northern Arizona University said the study found ‘nature has beaten cancer in countless ways across the tree of life’.

He added that scientists can use the information to help find new treatments for human cancers. For example, using the whale version of a protein that can prevent cell growth to develop drugs that shrink tumours in humans.

“Our goal is not only to get nature to inform us about better cancer therapies but to give the public a new perspective of cancer,” Tollis said. “The fact that whales and elephants evolved to beat cancer, and that dinosaurs suffered from it as well, suggests that cancer has been a selective pressure across many millions of years of evolution, and it has always been with us.

“Our hope is that this may change people’s relationship with the disease, which can be painful and personal. It also helps provide even better appreciation for biodiversity. In our current sixth mass extinction, we need all the reasons for conservation that we can get.”

In the study, researchers sequenced and assembled the genome of a humpback whale and compared it to other mammals. These included the blue whale, fin whale, bowhead whale and sperm whale.

They found that some parts of the whale genome contained genes that control the cell cycle, cell proliferation and DNA repair, which are essential for normal cell function. Many of these genes are mutated in human cancers. They also found that the whale genome also evolved many duplications in tumour suppressor genes.

Co-author Carlo Maley from Arizona State University said: “Nature is showing us that these changes to cancer genes are compatible with life. The next questions are, which of these changes is preventing cancer, and can we translate those discoveries into preventing cancer in humans?”

Tollis added: “This suggests that whales are unique among mammals in that in order to evolve their gigantic sizes, these important ‘housekeeping’ genes, that are evolutionarily conserved and normally prevent cancer, had to keep up in order to maintain the species’ fitness.

“We also found that despite these cancer-related parts of whale genomes evolving faster than other mammals, on average whales have accumulated far fewer DNA mutations in their genomes over time compared to other mammals, which suggests they have slower mutation rates.”

Become a member or log in to add this story to your CPD history

RCVS carries out annual VN CPD audit

News Story 1
 The RCVS is carrying out its annual veterinary nurse CPD audit and has sent out requests for the CPD records of more than 1,100 nurses this week.

Under the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct, nurses are required to carry out at least 45 hours of CPD over a rolling three-year period. This year, 1,130 nurses have been asked to share their records from 2016-2018 to show that they have complied with the requirements.

Earlier this year, the VN Council decided to expedite the referral process for nurses who have not complied with the CPD requirement for three or more years. In such cases nurses will have their records sent to the CPD Referral Group. 

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Kew Gardens seeking vets for Ethnoveterinary Medicine Project

A new project at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, is seeking the help of vets to find out how plants were traditionally used to treat animals.

The Ethnoveterinary Medicine Project is aiming to record the remaining knowledge from across the British Isles, before it disappears.

Visit the Kew Gardens website for more information or email ethnovet@kew.org to share data.