What if cancer was contagious?

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Hand GermsBy George Johnson – SMH.

For all its peculiar horror, cancer comes with a saving grace.

If nothing else can stop a tumour’s mad evolution, the cancer ultimately dies with its host. Everything the malignant cells have learned about outwitting the patient’s defences – and those of the oncologists – is erased. The next case of cancer, in another victim, must start anew.

Imagine if instead, cancer cells had the ability to press on to another body. A cancer like that would have the power to metastasise not just from organ to organ, but from person to person, evolving deadly new skills along the way.

While there is no sign of an imminent threat, several recent papers suggest that the eventual emergence of a contagious human cancer is in the realm of medical possibility. This would not be a disease, like cervical cancer, that is set off by the spread of viruses, but rather one in which cancer cells actually travel from one person to another and thrive in their new location.

While there is no sign of an imminent threat, several recent papers suggest that the eventual emergence of a contagious human cancer is in the realm of medical possibility.

So far this is known to have happened only under the most unusual circumstances. A 19-year-old laboratory worker who pricked herself with a syringe of colon cancer cells developed a tumour in her hand. A surgeon acquired a cancer from his patient after accidentally cutting himself during an operationread the full story.
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ONA Editor

The ONA Editor curates oncology news, views and reviews from Australia and around the world for our readers. In aggregated content, original sources will be acknowledged in the article footer.

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