First case of bone cancer discovered in dinosaurs, scientists claim

Dinosaurs suffered from cancer, new research has revealed, indicating the disease is fundamental to the animal kingdom.

Scientists claim to have discovered the first case of an aggressive malignant bone cancer – known as an osteosarcoma – in a plant-eating dinosaur. 

The findings have been published in the medical journal The Lancet Oncology.

The cancerous bone was the fibula – lower leg bone – from Centrosaurus apertus, a horned dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago in present day Canada.

Originally discovered in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta in 1989, the badly malformed fossil was originally thought to be a healing fracture.

Noting the unusual properties of the bone on a trip to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in 2017, Dr David Evans, of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Professor Mark Crowther and Snezana Popovic, an osteopathologist, both of McMaster University, decided to investigate.

They assembled a team of specialists and approached the diagnosis similarly to how it would be carried out in humans.

Prof Crowther said: “Diagnosis of aggressive cancer like this in dinosaurs has been elusive and requires medical expertise and multiple levels of analysis to properly identify.

“Here, we show the unmistakable signature of advanced bone cancer in a 76-million-year-old horned dinosaur – the first of its kind. It’s very exciting.”

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