Fighting a Contagious Cancer

Fighting a Contagious Cancer

November 29, 2017


400 E. Orange Street
Tempe, AZ


ASU Student Pavilion STPV

Date and Time

December 8, 2017, 5:30 pm (Length: 1 hour 0 minutes)

iCal Download

What is killing the Tasmanian devil?

A virulent cancer is infecting them by the thousands -- and unlike most cancers, it’s contagious.  Researcher Elizabeth Murchison tells us how she’s fighting to save the Taz, and what she’s learning about all cancers from this unusual strain.

The idea of cancer as a communicable disease, transmissible from patient to patient, is a terrifying one. Though cancer is not known to be contagious in humans, the disease can spread through other living populations, acting as an evolving parasitic disease. That has been the fate of Tasmanian devils, which have been decimated by a facial cancer that has driven these unique creatures to the brink of extinction.

Elizabeth Murchison is Reader in Comparative Oncology and Genetics at the University of Cambridge, Department of Veterinary Medicine. Her laboratory studies the genetics, evolution and host interactions of clonally transmissible cancers. Elizabeth uses genetics and genomics to understand the origins, evolution and geographical spread of these two unusual diseases.