Modelling Cancer Metastasis in Drosophila melanogaster

Cells. 2023 Feb 21;12(5):677. doi: 10.3390/cells12050677.


Cancer metastasis, the process by which tumour cells spread throughout the body and form secondary tumours at distant sites, is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The metastatic cascade is a highly complex process encompassing initial dissemination from the primary tumour, travel through the blood stream or lymphatic system, and the colonisation of distant organs. However, the factors enabling cells to survive this stressful process and adapt to new microenvironments are not fully characterised. Drosophila have proven a powerful system in which to study this process, despite important caveats such as their open circulatory system and lack of adaptive immune system. Historically, larvae have been used to model cancer due to the presence of pools of proliferating cells in which tumours can be induced, and transplanting these larval tumours into adult hosts has enabled tumour growth to be monitored over longer periods. More recently, thanks largely to the discovery that there are stem cells in the adult midgut, adult models have been developed. We focus this review on the development of different Drosophila models of metastasis and how they have contributed to our understanding of important factors determining metastatic potential, including signalling pathways, the immune system and the microenvironment.

Keywords: Drosophila; adult; cancer; larva; metastasis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila
  • Drosophila melanogaster*
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment