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Antibody discovery lifts hope for devils
Hobart Mercury, Hobart  by Erin Pearson
10 May 2016
General News - Page 3 - 208 words - ID 590572073 - Photo: Yes - Type: News Item - Size: 114.00cm2

RESEARCHERS at Deakin University may hold the key to saving Tasmania's endangered devils after a breakthrough in cancer research.

Beata Ujvari, of Deakin's Centre for Integrative Ecology, said recent research found natural antibodies in the marsupial's immune system might prove game-changing for the animal's facial tumour disease and open up the possibility of a vaccine and treatment options.

The disease has devastated the Tasmanian devil population in 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.

"We can deduce then that devils with higher natural antibody ratios are therefore less susceptible to the contagious 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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