It is thought that animals which have swum the oceans for at least 16 million years have evolved to become entirely immune to cancer.

It is hoped that studies on the evolution of great white sharks, which measure up to 20 feet in length and weigh up to 3 tonnes, could assist experts in identifying a cure for asbestos-related cancers and others forms of the disease.

Why might sharks have the answer?

Early indications are that the first map of the shark’s DNA showed a range of mutations which protect against cancer and other age-related conditions, as well as enhanced wound-healing.

Research has shown that various molecular changes in genes connected to DNA repair and damage tolerance have taken place within the genetic make-up of the animals. Such changes have resulted in sharks’ genome remaining stable.

Unfortunately, humans suffer higher rates of genome instability which is caused by accumulated DNA damage. This makes people more susceptible to developing various forms of cancer, including asbestos-related malignancy.

Those leading the study believe that examining the way great white sharks have evolved to allow their genome to remain stable and resist cancers, could potentially lead to ground breaking treatment.

What the researchers say

A co-leader of the American study, Dr M Shivji of the Save our Seas Foundation Shark Research Centre, Nova Southeastern University, Florida stated:

“Not only were there are surprisingly high number of genome stability genes that contained these adaptive changes, but there was also an enrichment of several of these genes, highlighting the importance of this genetic fine-tuning in the white shark.”

Dr Shivji continued:

“Genome instability is a very important issue in many serious human diseases. Now we find that nature has developed clever strategies to maintain the stability of genomes in these large-bodied, long-lived sharks.

There’s still tonnes to be learned from these evolutionary marvels, including information that will potentially be useful to fight cancer and age-related diseases and improve wound-healing treatments in humans, we uncover how these animals do it.”

We regularly report on the advances in treating asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma. Those treatments include immunotherapy and vaccine therapy. It is very much hoped that this new genetic research will go even further in the hope that a cure for asbestos-related cancer will soon be found.

In the meantime, we will continue to help people recover the cost of the latest forms of private treatments as part of their claims for asbestos disease compensation.

If you want to find out more about claiming mesothelioma compensation to cover the cost of private treatment or have any questions regarding any other potential asbestos claim then please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.


Nova Southeastern University. “Great white shark genome decoded: Huge genome reveals sequence adaptations in key wound healing and genome stability genes tied to cancer protection.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 February 2019. 

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