Disseminated Neoplasia in Mytilus chilensis



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Heamic neoplasia or disseminated neoplasia is a leukemia-like disease that consists of the proliferation of malignant non-functional hemocytes. Since hemocytes are responsible for respiration, nutrient absorption, and defense against pathogens, disseminated neoplasia impairs homeostasis and eventually ends in death. Research about this condition increased after mass mortalities of soft-shell clams happened throughout the world. Although most cancers are restricted to the individual diseased, horizontal transmission of this cancer is seen in multiple bivalve species. This rare phenomenon might suggest that transmissible cancers are more widespread than previously thought. We found the diseased individuals contained more than three alleles, with a common cancer-associated allele not found in healthy individuals. Diseased individuals show varying copy numbers of the cancer-associated allele, with much higher copy numbers than healthy individuals. Also, the cancer-associated allele seems to be of a different cancer lineage than the one observed in Mytilus trossolus. This is evidence of the potential presence of a transmissible cancer in a new species. This project was completed with contributions from Stephen Goff and Michael Metzger from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Columbia University and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University.