How Fruit Flies Can Lead To Potential Cancer Treatments

by Brent Woods

In the past, people who had the same type of cancer tended to get the same cancer treatment. However, results varied, and some people got better results from the treatment than others. This led researchers to try to verify just why this happens and come up with potential strategies for personalized cancer treatments. Fruit flies are one of the key components in this type of research because they have a very short life cycle and can be bred to have the same genetic mutations as a particular cancer patient, making it possible to research personalized treatment options.

Determining Most Important Mutations

When a person has cancer, they develop a number of different genetic mutations. Some of these mutations are more important for treating cancer than others. These make it so the cancer is more likely to grow and spread, while the other mutated genes are just caused by the problems in the cells created by the cancer. Determining just which of the genes are causing the most problems makes it easier to target cancer treatments. Out of about 200 mutated cells, about 10 are typically most involved in causing cancer. Using custom-bred fruit flies makes it possible to narrow down which cells are important. Once particular genes are found to be likely to be important for causing cancer, they can be entered into a database that other researchers can use as well to spread information on which cells may be important for cancer treatment.

Targeted Treatments

Another way to use these fruit flies for personalized cancer treatments is to use the flies bred to have the same DNA and cancer cells as the person with cancer to test out potential treatments. Because it's so inexpensive to breed these flies, a large enough number of flies can be bred to test out all FDA-approved medications, whether they're meant to treat cancer or not. Combinations of these medications can also be tested. In this way, the potentially most effective combination of currently available medications can be found for treating a person's cancer.

Coexisting Conditions

Flies can also be useful for determining how coexisting conditions affect cancer growth, such as why Type 2 diabetics tend to be more likely to get certain types of cancer. It turns out that in people with this type of diabetes, cancer cells can actually use the insulin and sugar in the blood better than the other cells, so they experience an increased rate of growth compared to cancer cells in people without diabetes.

To learn more, contact a company like Silver Cancer Institute.