This study will generate a genetic tool to examine tumour heterogeneity in a living organism, using the fruit fly as a model. Fruit flies are excellent genetic models as 70% of human disease genes are conserved, which allows us to study the basic mechanisms of cancer heterogeneity in a simple model.

The researchers will create fly tumours in which individual cells will have particular genetic alterations and they will study how these genetic alterations affect how the tumour develops. Their approach will reveal new mechanisms underlying the role of tumour heterogeneity in bowel cancer development and progression, therefore leading to advances in treatment.

What is heterogeneity? When a disease is heterogeneous, it means it can behave differently from individual to individual.

The researchers

This PhD study will be led by Dr Paulo Ribeiro and Dr Stuart McDonald at the Centre for Tumour Biology, Barts Cancer Centre.

Why study genetic differences in bowel cancer tumours?

Although it has one of the best survival rates when caught early, bowel cancer still has one of the poorest survival rates when it has progressed to advanced stages. It is difficult to treat because the genetic alterations in bowel cancer cells that drive its development can vary from patient to patient.

Developing a better understanding of the variety of these different mutations through building models to study them will enhance the methods by which we can ultimately deliver new, more effective and kinder treatments for individuals diagnosed with bowel cancer.