What a tumor that is transmitted between cockles across the sea teaches us about cancer

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There is a type of cancer that, like a parasite, is transmitted between cockles across the Atlantic Ocean.

It is a disease similar to leukemia. In it, the tumor cells are able to escape from the animal that houses them and, through the sea, reach a new specimen and cause a new tumor.

A team of researchers from CiMUS of the University of Santiago de Compostela directed by Jose Tubiohas managed to genetically sequence for the first time these two classes of transmissible tumors between cockles that “represent a paradigm in the world of cancer” and whose study “could reveal relevant questions about how transmissible cancers in particular and cancer in general evolve.” , as Tubío explains.

The work, details of which are published in the latest issue of Nature Canceris part of the ERC Starting Grant SCUBA CANCERS project, which started in 2017 to study the genetic causes of this cancer capable of being transmitted through the sea between bivalves.

“In 2017 we sampled the entire European coast, from Morocco to Russia, in search of these tumors. We found infected animals in Spain, Portugal, France, England and Ireland, while the most northern countries of the European continent seem, in principle, to be free of this disease. In total almost 7,000 cockles were studied, and about 400 individuals infected with this parasitic tumor were identified,” says Tubío.

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