The 2016 TCG Christmas Party! Merry Christmas everyone!
Many congratulations to TCG former postdoc Jose Tubio, who has been awarded a highly competitive ERC Starter Grant. The grant will allow Jose, who is now a faculty member at the University of Vigo, Spain, http://darwin.uvigo.es/mobgenomes/ to start up an exciting research programme on transmissible cancers in marine bivalves. Congratulations, Jose!
Congratulations to Andrea Strakova, who has been awarded a scholarship from the British Federation of Women Graduates (BFWG) for her research on CTVT. The scholarship, which is based purely on academic excellence, recognises Andrea’s important and exciting contributions to the field of transmissible cancers. The scholarship is available to final year female graduate students who are studying in the UK. Many congratulations to Andrea for this fantastic achievement!
Two TCG members, Alex Sampson and Andrea Strakova, have recently returned from a field trip in Belize. Alex and Andrea worked with vets and volunteers at the Hopkins Belize Humane Society (HBHS), Animal Medical Centre, Paw’s Veterinary Clinic, Roaring Creek Veterinary Clinic, Stann Creek Animal Hospital, Punta Gorda Humane Society and the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic to monitor the clinical behaviour of CTVT in a cohort of Belizean dogs. Huge thank you to Clara Lee Arnold from the HBHS and all of our fantastic collaborators who helped with the field work, and welcome back, Alex and Andrea.
Photo credit: Amanda Zehnder Thielman, Hopkins Belize Humane Society
Read the story about how a roadkill Tasmanian devil triggered Elizabeth Murchison's interest in transmissible cancers. The story, "Cancer in the wilderness", was published in Cell.
Four additional transmissible cancers have been discovered in marine bivalves - one of which appears to have jumped between species.
Read more here:
Using genetics, scientists at the TCG show how the world’s oldest cancer “metastasised” through the global dog population in an article published today in eLife.
Thanks to dedicated help from our veterinary collaborators based all over the world, we collected and analysed canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT) samples collected from over 400 dogs in 39 countries across six continents. Our research showed how CTVT has rapidly spread around the world over the last two thousand years. By tracing the five genetic lineages, or “clades”, of CTVT tumours (see map below), we mapped the geographical routes that the tumour may have taken on its global travels. Excitingly, our work also showed how CTVT has captured, maintained and rearranged its mitochondrial DNA along the way.
Citation: Strakova et al. eLife 2016;5:e14552
Many congratulations to TCG member Maximilian Stammnitz, who has been awarded a prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship! Gates Scholarships are extraordinarily competitive, so this is a huge achievement. More information about the 2016 class of Gates Cambridge Scholars can be found here:
Here is an inspirational true story of the young female dog Missy who made a full recovery from her severe CTVT cancer, thanks for the treatment and care provided by Animal Aid Unlimited.
We have a new opening for a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the TCG. This is an exciting opportunity to genetically analyse hundreds of tumours derived from transmissible cancer lineages in dogs and Tasmanian devils. The deadline for applications is 28th March 2016.
Application forms and more information are found here:
TCG research was mentioned in a recent article in the New York Times, speculating about transmissible cancers in humans...
Last week (1st-5th February) I had the privilege of visiting the TCG group at the Department of Veterinary Medicine in Cambridge, UK.
I had an awesome week!
In my normal life I am a vet who works for a welfare organisation in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I work in a small clinic where I deal with vaccinations, basic treatment of animal illness and injuries and simple surgery (predominantly spaying). I see and treat TVT regularly and since 2013 I have been sending biopsies to Andrea. Until now, sending regular biopsies was the extent of my involvement with the CTVT project. But after this week, I feel more like I'm part of a team!
Sitting in the lab in Cambridge and cutting up the pieces of tumour that I had actually collected, made me see how I fitted in the whole picture. From the way I label the biopsy vials, the information I send, the pictures I take to the point where I treat the patient. And in discussion with Liz and Tracy and Andy, I soon realised how little things that I can do (clinical history, location of the dog, exact treatment protocol etc) can make a considerable difference to how the results are interpreted.
I had been asked to do a presentation for the lab describing my field work. Initially I was wondering how I could relate to my audience but it turned out to be very easy to share my veterinary ideas and experiences with the group and for them to make suggestions about more field based information gathering. It all came together very nicely!
My very comfortable accommodation was at King's College, right in the heart of old Cambridge. The place oozes history and it's difficult not to be impressed by it.
The week wasn't just in the laboratory. I was given a guided tour of the Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital by the Dean of the Vet School Professor Mike Herrtage, I also went to other departmental presentations. We did lunch, we did dinner and it was over before I had a chance to breathe!
Liz, Tracy, Andy, Max, Young Mi, Adrian, Maire and Issy, thank you all for an unforgettable week!
Dr Mirjam van der Wel, from Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL) South Africa, came to visit TCG last week. Mirjam is a collaborator of our ongoing CTVT projects and had sent us hundreds of CTVT samples in the past few years. She spent a week with TCG members and investigated the journey of CTVT tissue samples from the biopsy to genomic DNA sequencing.
Over the past three weeks, our enthusiastic TCG members have been on a field excursion to Australia’s southernmost state: ’Tassie devil’s habitat. With the recent discovery of a second DFTD lineage, their intention was to conduct a preliminary field assessment of the spread DFT2 and meet local collaborators of the Save the Devil program.
Bringing Tasmanian summer, many unique memories and devil stories in
their suitcases, the three have now safely arrived in Cambridge: welcome back!
Scientists at the TCG, together with collaborators at the University of Tasmania and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, have discovered a second transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils. This second cancer, known as Devil Facial Tumour 2 (DFT2), causes tumours that are grossly indistinguishable from the first-discovered transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils (now known as DFT1). However, DFT2 bears no detectable genetic similarity to DFT1. This astonishing discovery has just been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Further information is also available on the University of Cambridge website.
The 2015 TCG Christmas Party was complete with German mulled wine, Chinese dumplings, Korean pickled cabbage pancakes, Czech spinach pastry, an Irish casserole, a brussels sprouts extravaganza and, most importantly, a TCG cake (see photo)! There was also a visit by Secret Santa, who brought lots of interesting gifts, including a shining reindeer nose T-shirt.
Karina Ferreira de Castro, a PhD student from São Paulo State University who visited the TCG in 2014, has successfully defended her PhD thesis in Brazil. Karina is also a veterinary oncologist, who regularly treats CTVT cases. Her thesis was entitled “Canine transmissible venereal tumour – I. Gene and protein expression and genotypic characterization of DLADQA-1 (MHC-II); II. Immunohistochemistry evaluation of local immune response”. Congratulations, Karina!
Professor Kathy Belov, from the University of Sydney, came to visit the TCG this week. Kathy is a colleague working on Tasmanian devils and other Australian species.
Welcome to new TCG group member Dr Tracy Wang, who has joined us today! Tracy will take the role of Lab Manager / Project coordinator. Welcome, Tracy!
Research from the TCG has been highlighted on the University of Cambridge website in an article entitled “T is for Tasmanian devil”. This article is part of an “animal alphabet” which looks at a selection of different animals featuring in research at Cambridge.
Elizabeth Murchison has been named runner-up for the 2016 Genetics Society of America (GSA) Rosalind Franklin Young Investigator Award of the Gruber Foundation. The award is to honour the ground-breaking contributions of Dr Rosalind Franklin in genetics research and to inspire and support new generations of women in the field of genetics.
The TCG had a farewell dinner for Jose Tubio, who is returning to Spain next week. Jose will be starting his own group at the University of Vigo. We wished him farewell with (not-so-authentic) Spanish tapas.
A new position is available for a Research Laboratory Technician within the Transmissible Cancer Group. This role is an exciting opportunity to get involved in research on transmissible cancers in both dogs and Tasmanian devils! More information available here:
Congratulations to Andrea Strakova, who has been awarded a £500 prize for delivering the best student talk at the Advances in Canine and Feline Genomics Conference! Andrea’s talk was entitled “Tracing the evolution and worldwide spread of the canine transmissible venereal tumour”. Andrea was also awarded a prize for submitting one of the best student abstracts at the conference. Congratulations, Andy!
Andrea Strakova and Elizabeth Murchison both gave presentations at the International Conference on Advances in Canine an Feline Genomics and Inherited Diseases, held in Cambridge from 23rd to 26th June. The photo shows Andrea giving her talk, entitled “Tracing the evolution and worldwide spread of the canine transmissible venereal tumour”.
Congratulations to Jose Tubio, who has received a prestigious Ramón y Cajal Fellowship from the Spanish Government. We celebrated at the Eagle Pub, where DNA was announced. This is an enormous achievement, many congratulations, Jose!
Adrian Baez-Ortega, Max Stammnitz and Daniel Martin-Herranz recently joined the Transmissible Cancer Group for summer 2015. Max and Daniel are part of the Cambridge MPhil in Computational Biology, and Adrian is a visiting researcher from Spain. Adrian, Max and Daniel are analysing transmissible cancer genomes in both dogs and devils.
We had a day-long mini-symposium on transmissible cancers with our collaborators at the University of Southampton. On the way home we had Red Velvet cake at King's Cross station.
Dr Jose Tubio joined our group today as a new Postdoctoral Research Associate. Jose will be investigating genome evolution in DFTD and CTVT. Welcome, Jose!
Contagious cancers may be more common than expected - researchers from Columbia University have just discovered a third transmissible cancer, affecting soft-shell clams on the East Coast of North America. Clam disseminated neoplasia, a leukemia-like disease, has been known for years and was previously thought to be caused by a virus; but now it is clear that it is transmitted by the cancer cells themselves. To celebrate the discovery of a new infectious cancer, we tested out the clams in a local restaurant…
The full citation for the new paper is: Michael J. Metzger, C. Reinisch, J. Sherry, Stephen P. Goff, Horizontal Transmission of Clonal Cancer Cells Causes Leukemia in Soft-Shell Clams. Cell 161, 255-263 10.1016/j.cell.2015.02.042