Understanding the factors promoting tumour growth is an important area of cancer research. The surrounding tissue, or tumour microenvironment, often plays a major role in stimulating growth, providing growth factors and other signalling molecules. However, research in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is revealing how mechanisms intrinsic to the tumour itself can also drive the progression of cancer. The tumour pictured was transplanted from a fruit fly larva to an adult, removing it from its own microenvironment. Yet it continued to grow, fuelled by signalling interactions between two different types of cancerous cells. The specific type of tumour studied here originally forms due to chromosomal instability, where chromosomes are incorrectly duplicated and assigned to new daughter cells during cell division, or problems with cell polarity, when cell features are improperly organised. These abnormalities are common in human cancers, so insights gained in the fly could be relevant to humans too.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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