A type of transmissible cancer has decimated Tasmanian devil populations.
First detected in 1996, the devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) has spread across most of the Tasmanian devil’s range and has wiped out more than 80 percent of these animals in Tasmania. The cancer, which spreads when the devils bite each other’s snouts, kills virtually every devil it infects.
Last year, researchers found that Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) have been evolving resistance to fight the cancer. And now, scientists may have a cure that could prevent the species’ extinction.
After years of laboratory work, researchers have successfully used immunotherapy to shrink and eliminate golf-ball sized tumors on Tasmanian devils. They report their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.