Sharks might hold the key to curing cancer

Learning that you or a loved one has cancer is one of the scariest experiences in life. One way of battling the illness may be to turn to something else that's notoriously scary.

Turns out sharks may be the key to solving cancer in humans.

A new study of great white and hammerhead shark DNA shows that unique changes in their immunity genes may be tied to why their wounds heal so fast and why they rarely get cancer.

Open wounds on sharks and rays heal within hours thanks to immune systems fine-tuned over 400 million years.

Scientists think this ability may help them avoid getting cancer.

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Sharks gather on the Israeli coast
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Sharks gather on the Israeli coast
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows an Israeli woman looking at a shark in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows Israelis taking photos of sharks in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows a shark in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows an Israeli man looking at sharks in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows Israelis taking photo of sharks in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows an Israeli woman looking at a shark in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows a shark in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows sharks in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows an Israeli taking photos of sharks in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows a shark in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows sharks in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows an Israeli taking photos of sharks in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows a shark in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on January 23, 2017, shows Israelis taking photo of sharks in the Mediterranean sea off the Israeli coastal city of Hadera north of Tel Aviv. Dozens of sandbar and dusky sharks, which can reach up to three metres (10 feet) length, have gathered off the coast of northern Israel where waters in the Mediterranean are warmer, prompting authorities to warn locals to keep away. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
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Two shark genes stood out to researchers from Cornell University and Nova Southeastern University and both of the genes have counterparts in humans.

However, there's one major difference. The genes promote cancer in humans.

In sharks, thanks to millions of years of evolution and natural selection, new research shows these genes show anti-tumor properties.

Scientists also found that compounds from shark tissue can slow down the growth of new blood vessels on tumors.

The idea that sharks rarely get cancer needs more scientific confirmation, but researchers are hopeful their findings could one day apply to human medicine.

Perhaps one day the idiom 'man's best friend' will be in reference to sharks.

Written by Sean Dowling

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