The International Associated Laboratory CANECEV, signed off by the French president Emmanuel Macron at the occasion of his visit in Australia in May 2018, has been awarded 536,133.60 € by the French National Research Agency (l'Agence Nationale de la Recherche- ANR) for its project “Ecology and evolution of transmissible cancers”, but has also been selected by the ARC linkage projects program for its project on evolution of immune capabilities in response to disease threats in the wild, project awarded 300 000 Au$ over 3 years.
Prof Frédéric Thomas (CNRS) and Dr Beata Ujvari (Deakin University), co-directors of the LIA and AFRAN members, will investigate to understand why transmissible cancers emerge, how they evolve, what their ecological and evolutionary impacts are, and how to manage or mitigate them… They will study particularly the abundance of transmissible cancers in the Tasmanian devil population, a vertebrate host with small population size, and relatively low genetic diversity, and in mussels, an invertebrate host with large host populations, and high genetic diversity. Collected data will identify common and specific traits of emergence and evolution of transmissible cancers. They will also assess the immune adaptive capabilities of Tasmanian devils in response to facial tumour disease. They plan to determine how the expression of immune genes differs between wild and captive populations to understand the role of host genetic and phenotypic adaptations to disease threats.
These projects will combine oncology, immunology, epidemiology and evolutionary biology, fields which haven’t, until very recently, developed many links with one another. Applying evolutionary principles and ecological approaches to cancer studies will allow another understanding of the disease and its evolution, but will also improve cancer prevention and therapies. These transdisciplinary studies should disclose the ecological and evolutionary components of cancer biology, and will gather specialists working in mathematics, cell biology, evolutionary biology, or behavioural ecology.
The research grants awarded to the International Associated Laboratory are a great recognition of this French-Australian collaboration, and of the importance of the research led. The grants will allow to build the transdisciplinary capacity of both Australia and France by involving several postgraduate students in bilateral projects.