Or at the very least, could you use CRISPR to modify/activate certain genes associated with cancer and then dose people with that in large numbers (like in biological warfare) to cause a mass cancer outbreak?

Of course this assumes CRISPR isn't what ends up killing cancer for good in the near future, but assuming that doesn't happen, could you create and weaponize cancer for use in biological warfare using CRISPR?

  • $\begingroup$ I can't tell for CRISPR itself, as I'm not too familiar with the details, but there are many viruses that cause cancer. Genetically engineering a virus to boost it's carcinogenicity should certainly be possible. $\endgroup$
    – Borsunho
    Nov 11, 2016 at 22:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Borsunho - There's transmissible cancers. Like en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canine_transmissible_venereal_tumor $\endgroup$
    – Malady
    Nov 11, 2016 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ Another example is tasmanian devil cancer, which is infectious and infects a large percentage of the population. they fight so much there are plenty of fluid and flesh transfer to make it work. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 27, 2018 at 3:54

3 Answers 3


Sure, and it would work with tech we have today.

Cancers generally start when radiation damages DNA. This is able to occur because radioactive particles can permeate, or pass through, a majority of substances - including flesh.

Lots of radiation exposure increases the likelihood that eventually, one of those particles will hit the right part of a DNA strand within one of a multitude of cells - stopping the cells from regulating their deaths, forming tumors, and so on.

If CRISPR is programmed to identify the DNA that regulates healthy cell death and damage it - and it spreads like a virus through host cells - then this idea is completely feasible with modern technology.


Once scientists identify that a virus is responsible for the mass cancer outbreaks, they will likely create a vaccine, or a countervirus that repairs cells - or even just cure cancer anyways after they have increased funds to do so - so not only did you fail, but you indirectly cured cancer.


There are already transmissable cancers. CRISPR/Cas is just one tool that someone could use to make more. Mother nature is much better at it though.


short answer yes, but it will not spread easily. transmissible cancers require extensive damage and lots of blood transfer, and cant be transmitted easily like bacteria or viruses because the cells themselves can't survive on their own for very long. CRISPR itself is not something you can does people with outside of a laboratory setting so you can't spread it that way either.

It would be useless as a weapon of war, the closest you could get is using CRISPR to modify one of the viruses that induces cancer into being better at it, but in that case the use of CRISPR would be incidental. But anyone going to do that would realize making a normal virus more lethal/transmittable would easier.


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