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Front Genet. 2019 Mar 1;10:51. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2019.00051. eCollection 2019.

Drosophila melanogaster: A Model Organism to Study Cancer.

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Department of Cellular, Computational and Integrative Biology, University of Trento, Trento, Italy.
Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
Department of Biosciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.
Department of Medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, NY, United States.


Cancer is a multistep disease driven by the activation of specific oncogenic pathways concomitantly with the loss of function of tumor suppressor genes that act as sentinels to control physiological growth. The conservation of most of these signaling pathways in Drosophila, and the ability to easily manipulate them genetically, has made the fruit fly a useful model organism to study cancer biology. In this review we outline the basic mechanisms and signaling pathways conserved between humans and flies responsible of inducing uncontrolled growth and cancer development. Second, we describe classic and novel Drosophila models used to study different cancers, with the objective to discuss their strengths and limitations on their use to identify signals driving growth cell autonomously and within organs, drug discovery and for therapeutic approaches.


Drosophila cancer modeling; cancer biology; metabolism; oncogene; signaling; therapeutic approaches; tissue growth; tumor suppressor

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