October 2021

2020 Call: Identifying new regulators of cell invasion in colorectal cancer using the Drosophila adult intestine

Project OC-2020-011

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a cancer of the colon and the rectum. It is the third most prevalent cancer worldwide and is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths. If the cancer is localized, the five-year survival rate is 90%; if the cancer has spread – metastasized – the five-year survival rate drops to 14%. Consequently, it is crucial to understand how CRC cells adopt a metastatic fate.

The predominant CRC signature is hyperactivation of Wnt and RAS signaling plus loss of cellular repair pathways. There have been many attempts to develop metastatic CRC mouse tumor models to define the molecular progression of the disease. Unfortunately, the path to developing these models has heavily relied on “trial and error” mouse screens. Recently however, Drosophila researchers have developed the genetics and screening tools to study CRC metastasis in the fly gut. 

The project will use the newly established Drosophila CRC metastasis model to screen for genes involved with promoting cell invasion, a key initiating step in metastasis. The researchers will then characterize these genes in Drosophila and identify which conserved molecular systems are involved with the metastatic pathway.

Dr Jamie Little
University of Zurich

Prof. Konrad Basler
University of Zurich

Dr Erich Brunner
University of Zurich

Dr Hassan Fazilaty
University of Zurich