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Cancer cells and stem cells bear striking similarities including immortality and the ability to generate multiple cell types. We seek to understand the stem cell properties of cancer cells with the goal of developing new cancer therapeutics.
We use as our model the stem cells of the Drosophila intestine
The Drosophila intestine has many parallels with human intestine and can be used to create tumor models. The cartoon shows the cell types and some of the conserved signaling molecules. See our recent review.
Our model organism of choice is the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster
For us the fly doubles as a simplified mouse and a highly sophisticated organ culture system. Working with the fly enables us to perform large scale screens in vivo not possible in traditional mammals, for both gene differences and directly for drugs. This cartoon shows the growth of a tumor when injected into a wild type host fly.
We focus on cell-cell interactions within the stem cell microenvironment
In our recent PNAS paper we demonstrate that many FDA approved chemotherapeutics have an adverse effect on the microenvironment which in turn promotes stem cell hyperproliferation. This photo shows activation of STAT in daughter cells in response to treatment with certain chemotherapeutics.
We make models of tumorigenesis
by increasing and decreasing the expression of specific genes in specific cells of the intestine. The genes that we manipulate include oncogenes, miRNAs, tumor suppressors, and chromatin modifiers. The photo shows the effect of genetic manipulations leading to stem cell and daughter mutants.