Tamanian Devils are being decimated by an infectious disease called ‘Devil Facial Tumor Disease.” This soft tissue carcinoma causes severe disease of the face then spreads throughout the rest of the body. This non-viral disease is spread through fighting, something Tasmanian Devils like to do. Sadly, it is estimated to have decreased the population of Tazmanian devils by 70% since 1996.
In 2003, a Save The Devil program began experimenting with treatments for Devil Facial Tumor Disease. Nothing worked until QBiotics offered to treat them with EBC-46 derived from the tropical forests of Australia. Veterinarians have been using it with success in dogs and cats, so the compound was injected into the lesions of four Tazmanian Devils with advanced disease. According to Dr. Stephen Pyecroft, “There was either regression or palliation of all the tumors in the animals.”
Although EBC-46 will not prevent the disease in wild devils, it can be used to extend the life of affected animals. In particular, treatment of pregnant or nursing females allows them to raise their offspring before succumbing to the disease. Eventually, EBC-46 might even help people affected with carcinomas. As a cancer survivor, I am excited by that prospect.
Money, L. “Drug trial offers hope for decimated devil population”, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 1, 2013.