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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2013 May 15;153(1-2):159-64. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2013.02.008. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

Does the devil facial tumour produce immunosuppressive cytokines as an immune evasion strategy?

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Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, RMC Gunn, B19, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.


A unique transmissible cancer known as the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is threatening the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) with extinction. This disease is highly unusual as it is one of only two naturally occurring contagious cancers. The tumour is transmitted by biting and is able to spread between genetically diverse hosts. Why the tumours are not recognised as foreign and rejected by the host immune system in unknown. One mechanism that allows human cancers to avoid immune suppression is by producing cytokines which down-regulate the hosts immune system. Four key cytokines involved in this process are TGFβ1, VEGF-A, IL-10 and IL-6. In this study we investigated whether these cytokines could be involved in immune avoidance in DFTD. To do this we compared expression of these cytokines in tumour and control tissues using qPCR. We found no significant upregulation of any of these cytokines in tumour tissue. We therefore conclude that these cytokines do not play a role in the spread of DFTD. Further work will be needed to elucidate how DFTD cells avoid immune rejection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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