neoplasms in corals

McCarty and Peters McCarty_and_Peters at
Mon May 29 12:41:07 EDT 2000

Dear Francisco,

The most recent publication on the topic of coral neoplasms of which I am
aware is:

Coles, S.L., and D.G. Seapy.  1998.  Ultra-violet absorbing compounds and
tumorous growths on acroporid corals from Bandar Khayran, Gulf of Oman,
Indian Ocean.  Coral Reefs 17:195-198.

This paper measured UV-absorbing compounds in the tissues of Acropora
valenciennesi and A. valida colonies with and without neoplasms
(calicoblastic epitheliomas).  Tumor tissue extracts showed reduced levels
of these compounds compared to normal tissue, but did "not unequivocally
establish that reduction in UV absorbing compounds caused UVB damage
leading to tumor formation," because of other possible confounding factors.

Dr. John Harshbarger, Director of the Registry of Tumors in Lower Animals,
George Washington University, and I continue to work with scientists
studying neoplasms and hyperplasms, or areas of accelerated growth, in
scleractinian corals.  Your observations of abnormal tissue/skeleton
formation in two species of corals from reefs off Brazil are of great
interest.  We have had recent reports of skeletal anomalies from Hawaii,
the eastern Pacific, and Red Sea, but no reports from Brazil.  We encourage
collaborative, multidisciplinary studies of these lesions, and would be
most interested in viewing photographs of your affected corals (what
species are they?) and providing other information to assist in their study
and diagnosis.

I had hoped to continue research on the calicoblastic epitheliomas of the
Acropora palmata from the Florida Keys (described in Peters et al., 1986,
J. Nat. Cancer Inst. 76:895-912).  I had identified several scientists with
an interest in using coral tissue culture, molecular biology, and
biochemical techniques for these investigations.  John and Judy Halas and I
finally had an opportunity to visit the Grecian Rocks patch reef where John
had discovered these lesions in the early 1980s during the before-NCRI
conference field trip (April 1999).  Sadly, we discovered that all the A.
palmata in this area had died sometime in the last few years.  We are still
hopeful that the other areas of affected A. palmata in the Key Largo
Sanctuary area remain, but getting to those sites is difficult to work into
schedules!  Alas, many of the Gulf of Oman tumorous corals had also died
following flooding in the region.

We look forward to learning more about the lesions you've observed on the
Brazilian reef corals and will be pleased to assist you in your research to
the extent we can.

Esther Peters

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