Aggressive Cancer Diagnosed for First Time in a Dinosaur

TUESDAY, Aug. 4, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists for the first time have identified an aggressive bone cancer in a dinosaur that lived nearly 77 million years ago.

The cancerous lower leg bone (fibula) is from a horned dinosaur called a Centrosaurus apertus. At first, researchers thought the bone had been broken and was healing when the animal died, but state-of-the-art technology showed it had a cancer known as an osteosarcoma.

"Diagnosis of aggressive cancer like this in dinosaurs has been elusive and requires medical expertise and multiple levels of analysis to properly identify," said Mark Crowther, a professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University in Canada.

"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," he said in a news release from the Royal Ontario Museum.

To make the diagnosis, Crowther and his team used high-resolution CT scans and three-dimensional CT reconstruction, which showed the progression of cancer through the bone.

To be certain, they compared the fossil with a normal fibula from a dinosaur of the same species and with a human fibula with osteosarcoma.

Although cancer might have killed the dinosaur in time, the fossil was found in a bonebed, suggesting that it died with a large herd of Centrosaurus in a flood.