A canine cancer from 6000 years ago still exists today

August 8th, 2019

6,000 years ago, a Siberian dog race once existed and roamed the planet before humans invented the wheel or the plow.

Today, they are now extinct because of cells that mutated and killed canines. And these cells exist until today, with no cure in sight whatsoever.

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These cells used to be dormant and just existed inside canines.

Then these cells mutated after coming into contact with a mystery exposure, got rejected by the dog’s immune system and survives by being transferred to another dog.

This is why Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumors (CTVT) still exists until today.

Also known as infectious sarcoma, venereal granuloma, transmissible lymphosarcoma or Sticker tumor, these tumors can be spread through direct contact between dogs. Direct contact includes sexual transmission, licking, biting, and sniffing the tumor affected areas.

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What does CTVT look like?

Canine TVT is cauliflower-like, pedunculated, nodular, papillary, or multilobulated in appearance. It can range in size from 5mm to a large mass. This mass will be bulging out of the surface membrane of the vagina, or on the penis and may break off when touched. Infected dogs will also lick the affected area with frequency.

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CTVT is very common among stray dogs and in shelters.

This is definitely a great reason to have your dogs spayed or neutered, or participate/donate in Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs of animal welfare groups, animal shelters, and volunteers.

How is CTVT diagnosed?

CTVT can be diagnosed easily most of the time by cytology. Cytology is the microscopic examination of cell samples. Samples are collected through cotton swabs on the area or through fine needle aspiration (FNA). FNA involves taking a small needle with a syringe and suctioning a sample of cells directly from the tumor. These samples are examined through a microscope by a veterinary pathologist.

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In case, the results of the cytology are not clear, a biopsy may be necessary. A biopsy involves surgically removing a piece of the tumor, which will be examined by a veterinary pathologist with a microscope. This process is called histopathology.

Usually, this cancer stays local to the area where it initially developed.

But it does grow, in most cases, and if it’s left untreated, they will be aggravating and infuriating. In some rare cases though, the tumor could metastasize and spread to other parts of the body, usually the lymph nodes.

How can CTVT be treated?

There are four recommended ways to treat CTVT: surgery, Vincristine, Doxorubicin, and radiation.

Surgery is the most accessible.

The veterinarian will excise as much of the tumor from the canine. But there’s still a chance of not being able to excise all of the tumors. If there’s any part left in the canine, the tumors could recur and grow again.

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Vincristine and Doxorubicin are both chemotherapy agents.

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WebMD Source: WebMD

Even if surgery was done, chemotherapy is also recommended to remove parts of the tumor that were not removed by surgery. Both are given intravenously. Vincristine must be used first. And if it doesn’t work, that’s when Doxorubicin is used.

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WebMD Source: WebMD

Radiation is the most effective treatment for CTVT but it is the most expensive and not always available.

If you have a dog that was diagnosed with CTVT and you have other dogs, be sure to keep the diagnosed dog away from all the other dogs. Even if they’re spayed or neutered, the other dogs could lick, bite, or sniff the infected area and contract CTVT.

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Different studies are now being conducted to learn and understand CTVT better.

And what they’ve found is that the CTVT cells have become domesticated. Even if these cells are filled with an average of 38,000 mutations, evolution has tamed it. CTVT cells no longer want to evolve to overpower the host, that’s why it’s become easier to treat.

“The cancer will never be fitter than it is right now,” Adrian Baez-Ortega said.

Baez-Ortega is a Ph.D. student of Elizabeth Murchison from the University of Cambridge in the UK. He is also the lead author of the study to create the first-ever genetic map of CTVT.

Eventually, it won’t have enough genome left to adapt to changes further down the road. But that won’t be happening until tens or hundreds of thousands of years from now.

Learn more about canine transmissible venereal tumor by watching the video below.

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Source: Cambridge University