Fruit fly study of rare bone cancer


Scientists in Spain have found a new research method to study a rare, but often fatal bone cancer affecting children and young adults.


Currently there are no specific treatments for Ewing sarcoma, but a team at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) and SJD Paediatric Cancer Center Barcelona, have successfully engineered fruit flies to express a variant (EWS-FLIFS) of the cancer gene that causes the disease in most humans.


By expressing the variant in flies, the same tumour development pathways as in humans were triggered, allowing the researchers to study how a tumour forms.


Most cancer types use mice as a research model, but this is the first time that Ewing sarcoma has been successfully modelled in an animal that shows the cancer gene, after failed attempts to do so in mice.


Study author Dr Cristina Molnar, at IRB, said: “This simple genetic trick greatly facilitates the implementation of massive genetic and chemical screens to identify "modifiers" that inhibit… oncogenic activity.”


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