Screening for new oncogenes using flies

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world. It arises from the activation of specific oncogenes along with the loss of function of tumor suppressor genes that act as sentinels to control cell proliferation and differentiation. Despite huge scientific advances, searching for new oncogenes which can act as therapeutic targets is still needed.


A powerful and simple model

Fruit flies are small flies that are easy to manipulate genetically. As a large proportion of their genes are similar to humans, they are an excellent model organism to study cancer biology. Taking advantage of this powerful biological model, the team of Prof. Vladimir Katanaev has set up a Fly Facility at the University of Geneva. Inaugured last year, this facility shelters thousands of flies and allows researchers to conduct experiments in a controlled atmosphere.


The climatic chamber that allow researchers to conduct experiments with fruit flies in a controlled atmosphere.


An innovative screening method

With the HumanaFly project described in their recent article in Scientific Reports, researchers of Prof. Vladimir Katanaev laboratory have taken up the challenge to discover new human oncogenes using flies. They have screened the role of hundreds of transgenes from breast cancer patients by expressing them in the eyes of insects. In contrast to conventional in vitro assays, this innovative method makes it very easy to observe changes in the appearance of the eyes caused by different transgenes, with only a binocular magnifier.


A first oncogene discovered

Recently, researchers from Prof. Vladimir Katanaev's team have highlighted a first potential oncogene by observing the eyes of fruit flies. This gene, called RPS12, appeared to be implicated in a particularly important mechanism in the development of breast cancer, the Wnt signaling pathway. Further research on fruit flies could lead to more discoveries on the biology of cancer.



11 Jan 2021