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Integr Comp Biol. 2018 Dec 1;58(6):1043-1054. doi: 10.1093/icb/icy118.

Two Decades of the Impact of Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease.

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Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania 7005, Australia.
Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, DPIPWE, GPO Box 44, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia.
Toledo Zoo, 2605 Broadway, Toledo, OH 43609, USA.
School of Medicine, College of Health and Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania 7005, Australia.
School of Natural Sciences, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 55, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia.


The Tasmanian devil, a marsupial carnivore, has been restricted to the island state of Tasmania since its extinction on the Australian mainland about 3000 years ago. In the past two decades, this species has experienced severe population decline due to the emergence of devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), a transmissible cancer. During these 20 years, scientists have puzzled over the immunological and evolutionary responses by the Tasmanian devil to this transmissible cancer. Targeted strategies in population management and disease control have been developed as well as comparative processes to identify variation in tumor and host genetics. A multi-disciplinary approach with multi-institutional teams has produced considerable advances over the last decade. This has led to a greater understanding of the molecular pathogenesis and genomic classification of this cancer. New and promising developments in the Tasmanian devil's story include evidence that most immunized, and some wild devils, can produce an immune response to DFTD. Furthermore, epidemiology combined with genomic studies suggest a rapid evolution to the disease and that DFTD will become an endemic disease. Since 1998 there have been more than 350 publications, distributed over 37 Web of Science categories. A unique endemic island species has become an international curiosity that is in the spotlight of integrative and comparative biology research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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