Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fruit Flies Soar As Lab Model, Drug Screen For The Deadliest Of Human Brain Cancers

Date:
February 23, 2009
Source:
Salk Institute
Summary:
Fruit flies and humans share most of their genes, including 70 percent of all known human disease genes. Taking advantage of this remarkable evolutionary conservation, researchers transformed the fruit fly into a laboratory model for an innovative study of gliomas, the most common malignant brain tumors.

Tumorous glial cells, labeled in green, have overtaken most of an adult fly brain. Glial cell nuclei are shown in red.
Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Renee Read, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Fruit flies and humans share most of their genes, including 70 percent of all known human disease genes. Taking advantage of this remarkable evolutionary conservation, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies transformed the fruit fly into a laboratory model for an innovative study of gliomas, the most common malignant brain tumors.

"Gliomas are a devastating disease but we still know very little about the underlying disease process," explains John B. Thomas, Ph.D., a professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and senior author of the study, which is published in the current edition of the Public Library of Science Genetics. "We can now use the power of Drosophila genetics to uncover genes that drive these tumors and identify novel therapeutic targets, which will speed up the development of effective drugs."

Better models for research into human gliomas are urgently needed. Last year alone, about 21,000 people in this country were diagnosed with brain and nervous system cancers, Senator Edward M. Kennedy the most famous among them. About 77 percent of malignant brain tumors are gliomas and their prognosis is usually bleak. While they rarely spread to elsewhere in the body, cancerous glial cells quickly infiltrate the brain and grow rapidly, which renders them largely incurable even with current therapies.

Gliomas originate in brain cells known as "glia" and are categorized into subtypes based on how aggressive they appear, with glioblastoma being the most common and most aggressive form of glioma. Their diversity is mirrored by the number of different signaling pathways involved in the generation of these tumors, yet aggressive gliomas all seem to have one thing in common: Most, if not all human glioblastomas carry mutations that activate the EGFR-Ras and PI-3K signaling pathways. Such mutations are also thought to play a key role in developing drug resistance.

"Fruit flies possess homologs of many relevant human genes including EGFR, Ras, and PI-3K," explains postdoctoral researcher and first author Renee Read, who spearheaded the project. "We developed the Drosophila model to figure out how these genes specifically regulate brain tumor pathogenesis and to discover new ways to attack these tumors."

When Read activated both signaling pathways specifically in glia in genetically engineered fruit flies, she found that, just as in the mammalian brain, activation of the EGFR-Ras and PI-3K pathways gave rise to rapidly dividing, invasive cells that created tumor-like growths in the fly brain, mimicking the human disease.

"Once I had verified that the fly tumors share key aspects with human gliomas, I could use the model to screen for new genes that are involved in disease process and compare them to the genes that were found as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas' glioblastoma initiative," explains Read.

Glioblastoma is one of the first cancers studied by The Cancer Genome Atlas research network, whose goal is to accelerate understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the application of modern genome characterization technologies such as large-scale genome sequencing.

Like most cancers, gliomas arise from changes in a person's DNA that accumulate over a lifetime but sorting changes with wide-ranging impacts from innocent bystanders has been a challenge. "While these initiatives give us big lists of altered genes they don't tell us much about which ones are really important," says Read. "Addressing this question in mouse models or patient studies is extremely expensive and time-consuming. In flies, I can test hundreds of genes every week."

The Salk researchers are now using their fly model to search for genes and drugs that might block EGFR/PI-3K-associated brain tumors. The drug tests are being done in collaboration with co-authors professor Webster Cavenee, Ph.D., and associate professor Frank Furnari, Ph.D., both experts in human brain tumor biology at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of California, San Diego.

The researchers are hoping that through their combined efforts new discoveries from the fly model can be rapidly translated into mouse and human brain tumor studies and lead to development of new therapies for this deadly cancer.

The work was supported by the National Institutes for Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the American Brain Tumor Association.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Salk Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Salk Institute. "Fruit Flies Soar As Lab Model, Drug Screen For The Deadliest Of Human Brain Cancers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090212210716.htm>.
Salk Institute. (2009, February 23). Fruit Flies Soar As Lab Model, Drug Screen For The Deadliest Of Human Brain Cancers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090212210716.htm
Salk Institute. "Fruit Flies Soar As Lab Model, Drug Screen For The Deadliest Of Human Brain Cancers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090212210716.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria free of Ebola. Health experts credit a bit of luck and the government's initial response. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Another Study Suggests Viagra Is Good For The Heart

Another Study Suggests Viagra Is Good For The Heart

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) An ingredient in erectile-dysfunction medications such as Viagra could improve heart function. Perhaps not surprising, given Viagra's history. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 20, 2014) Forty-three people who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., were cleared overnight of twice-daily monitoring after 21 days of showing no symptoms. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Calls for New Ebola Safety Guidelines

CDC Calls for New Ebola Safety Guidelines

AP (Oct. 20, 2014) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden laid out new guidelines for health care workers when dealing with the deadly Ebola virus including new precautions when taking off personal protective equipment. (Oct. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins