Metastasis of Drosophila tumors

Published on September 29, 2008 Reviewed on September 25, 2017   21 min

A selection of talks on Oncology

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Hi, I'm Allen Shearn, an emeritus Professor of Biology at Johns Hopkins University. The work on the "Metastasis of Drosophila Tumors" that I'm about to describe, was done by a talented group of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research associates. The pioneering work in this field was done by Elizabeth Gateff. She began this work in the 1960s as a graduate student at Case-Western Reserve University with Howard Schneiderman and continued this work at the University of Mainz until she retired a few years ago.
As with so many other developmental processes, Drosophila can be used as a model system to study tumor metastasis. Actually, Drosophila provided the first example of a tumor suppressor gene. In the 1960s Elizabeth Gateff showed that recessive lethal giant larvae mutations caused neoplastic brain tumors, and that those tumors when transplanted into normal hosts, kill such hosts. The evidence presented here demonstrates that cells from such tumors invade host tissues and form micrometastases. We compared the metastatic property of cells from brain tumors caused by mutations in two different genes. Much to our surprise, we found that these properties were distinctly different. This lead us to conclude that metastasis can be caused by a variety of mechanisms.
Metastasis involves the spread of tumor cells from their site of origin and their invasion into tissues at distinct sites. In vertebrates, the spread of these tumor cells can occur via the lymph system or through blood vessels. Flies have an open circulatory system, so the spread only occurs through their lymph system.