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Devil of a problem
Geelong Advertiser, Geelong  by Erin Pearson
10 May 2016
General News - Page 11 - 214 words - ID 590532401 - Photo: Yes - Type: News Item - Size: 394.00cm2

Geelong research offers cancer hope

DEAKIN University researchers may hold the key to saving Tasmania's endangered devils after a breakthrough in cancer research.

Dr Beata Ujvari, from Deakin's Centre for Integrative Ecology within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, said there was a possibility of developing a new vaccine.

Dr Ujvari said recent research found natural antibodies in the marsupial's immune system may prove game changing for the animal's facial tumour disease and open up the treatment options for the first time.

The disease has devastated the Tasmanian devil population over the past 20 years.

"We know from human and animal studies that certain natural antibodies are able to recognise and kill cancerous cells, so we wanted to see whether the presence of these molecules would also determine tumour development in Tasmanian devils," Dr Ujvari said.

"We found that devils that have a higher ratio of these natural antibodies were less likely to have cancer.

"Anti-tumour vaccines that enhance the production of these natural antibodies, or direct treatment of the cancer with natural antibodies, could become a solution to help halt this disease." The facial cancer is spread from devil to devil via biting during social interactions and has caused massive population declines of Tasmanian devils since its first sighting in 1996.

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